20 years in 10 minutes with Scott Hicks

By Lauren Ferrone

It was one of the most celebrated and successful films in Australian cinema history – a 1996 biographical drama based on the life and mental battle experienced by pianist, David Helfgott. Now Shine‘s South Australian director, Scott Hicks takes us back 20 years…

Q. INSIDE SOUTH AUSTRALIA: Congratulations on the 20th anniversary of Shine‘s Australian release. What are your thoughts as you reflect on the film’s enormous success?

A. SCOTT HICKS: I feel people have a great sense of affection for the film, even after 20 years. It’s an extraordinary privilege to have people wanting to celebrate this milestone. We had a huge audience in St Kilda this week, with more than 600 people coming to see the film which screened at The Astor. It followed a Q&A with myself, Geoffrey Rush, and others who were key to the film.

Q. You’ll be at Adelaide’s Capri Theatre tomorrow night for the South Australian screening. How do you feel being back home?

A. The film’s screening at Capri on Friday night will be the climax. Again, Geoffrey will be there and we’ll do a Q&A with the audience where they can ask us questions about the film and our careers. Although my work has taken me, for the most part, to America, I’ve always been based in Adelaide. My home and family are here. I also have a vineyard in the Adelaide Hills. It’s always wonderful to come back and spend time here.

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Scott Hicks on set with Shine actors, Noah Taylor and John Gielgud

Q. Take us back 20 years ago when you made the decision to take on the role of directing Shine.

A. When you set out to make a film, you want to reach an audience, so that was very much in my mind. I just felt, if I could tell the story well, then it would touch people the same way it touched me. But, I had no idea it would do that all over the world; I guess I was thinking mainly of Australia. When it became such a huge hit in America, and the rest of the world, it validated that initial vision I had.

Q. There’s also an exhibition featuring a collection of Shine memorabilia opening at the South Australian Film Corporation Adelaide Studios on Monday.

A. Yes, the private collection is a series of production photographs, original scripts, posters, newspaper clippings, and other interesting things that have been drawn from myself and my wife and producer, Kerry Heysen, in developing the film. It’ll be fun to share this with people as a memory of the global reach Shine had.

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A photo of David Helfgott and Geoffrey Rush’s reunion, captured by Scott last Saturday

Q. What memories have been brought back as you look at the collection?

A. Naturally it brings the whole experience to life again. It’s now 30 years since I met David for the first time. That’s half my lifetime. So, it was a reminder of the 10 years that it took to create the screenplay and raise the money to make the film. Now here we are celebrating the 20th anniversary. It’s quite thrilling to reflect on it, and to realise the film hasn’t in fact dated at all. It still feels as clear and relevant as it was 20 years ago.

Q. As a successful South Australian film director, how has the State influenced your career?

A. Quite simply, if Don Dunstan did not have the vision to create a film industry in South Australia 40 years ago, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to become a film director. I’ve worked on and have made many films here in South Australia, but I owe it to that vision from Don Dunstan, and to all of the governments which have supported the film industry and understood its power to reach all corners of the globe. Shine has illustrated this to perfection; it literally reached ever corner of the world, and it still resonates to this day.

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Q. When can we expect your film genius to grace our screens again?

A. For now, I’m really focusing on this wonderful moment of reflection. This event celebrating the film’s 20 years is so rare, so I’m just focusing on this at the moment… but ask me again next week and I’ll tell you.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of its Australian release, there will be a special screening of Shine at Capri theatre tomorrow night (August 19) at 6:30pm. It will follow a Q&A session with Shine director, Scott Hicks, and the film’s Oscar award-winning actor, Geoffrey Rush. Tickets available here.

The film’s 20th anniversary private memorabilia collection will be on public display at South Australian Film Corporation Adelaide Studios from Monday (August 22), 10am to 4pm weekdays.