Jack Willis is a road train driver with a secret. He has just become a top-selling romance novelist. However, being a "man's man" in the Australian outback, to avoid embarrassment he needs a name; a woman's name - and he chooses that of his best friend, Ruby. A comedy of error ensues as romantic triangles collide. Jack and Ruby have a secret so closely guarded... they haven't even told themselves!
Writer: Antony J. Bowman
Director: Antony J. Bowman
Producers: W. Lance Reynolds/John Winter
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Claudia Karvan, Angie Milliken,
Andrew S. Gilbert, Jeanie Drynan
Paperback Hero is a marvellous, fresh and endlessly entertaining film, starting with an original concept delivered through an intelligent (and refined over seven years) script. The film is devoid of the clichés that mar so many Hollywood attempts at this deceptively difficult genre.
One of the key difficulties usually arise in the clunky handling of the third party in the love triangle: the girl's nerdy/ugly/racist/evil - totally unbelievable - boyfriend to whom she is about to be married. Here, Bowman's script and Andrew Gilbert's satisfyingly rounded Hamish have created a lovable, wonderful character, as Australian as a cold beer in a dusty pub - yet entirely unique, without caricature or cliché. He is a lovely bloke, just wrong for Ruby - so when the inevitable happens, our emotions are truly engaged.
As for Hugh Jackman, you may as well start misspelling his name: he will certainly be Huge. Karvan, who has never given a bad performance, gives her best here. And together, Jackman and Karvan are a screen match made in movie heaven; they take the script's boisterous spirit and run with it to great effect - under Bowman's assured, sensitive and well paced direction.
He has mastered mood, tone and sensibilities to capture the complex nature of Australia's laconic ethos through characters and values so convincingly as to give the film the impact of a Crocodile Dundee - but in the 90s. For all sorts of reasons, you owe it to yourself to see Paperback Hero.
- Urban Cinefile, Andrew L. Urban
Bowman Pegs 'Paperback' Book Deal
Writer-directory Antony J. Bowman has been developing "Paperback Hero" for a couple of years, but his biggest recent break is a deal to pen the novelization of his script.
Penguin Books is in final negotiations with Bowman to publish the book before the movie is released. Bowman will pen the manuscript, due before the movie even starts production in October.
The novelization "just came right out of left field," Bowman said. "In my short time in Hollywood, I have found that they love books. It is a tangible thing, something you can lock down."
The pic is about a truck driver who writes a romance novel and puts a female childhood friend's name on it as the author. When the novel is accepted for publication, the woman agrees to help guard his secret, and a love affair unfolds.
Bowman, whose first feature was "Cappuccino," currently is casting the pic, and plans to fly to London next week to meet with several actresses. Jeanie Drynan ("Muriel's Wedding") will play a supporting role.
The project is backed by Capitol Films and the Australian Film Finance Corp. Ed Feldman is executive producer.
- The Daily Variety
A Winner From Start To Finish ...
Fresh and original, there's a delicious playful feel about Paperback Hero, Antony J. Bowman's delightful romantic comedy that surprises with a twist or two. You can almost taste the dust in the remote locations, home to unique characters who are simple and honest, yet fascinating and entertaining.
The script is sharp, sensitive and very funny. The concept and execution is authentically Australian - the characters, the humour, the casual ease and no-nonsense stylefound in much of Australia. The performances are wonderful; Hugh Jackman and Claudia Karvan are magic together.
The charisma is explosive, the humour frivolous yet meaningful. The camera loves the seriously handsome Jackman - don't be surprised if he travels the Mel Gibson road. He has that unique, elusive thing: star quality. He carries his good looks like a rucksack and unselfconsciously inhabits every facet of his complex character.
Karvan is stunning - cast against type, her feminine attributes are magnified by the tomboy nature of her character. Andre Gilbert's gut-wrenching performance hits the bullseye; his subtlety and understatement will stay with you long after you've left the cinema.
The entire cast is excellent, which includes the always compelling Jeanie Drynan. With a music score that soars like a crazed crop dusting plane, plus a sprinkling of infectious Roy Orbison tunes with glorious moody pieces. Watch our for the memorable karaoke scene - it rivals the one in My Best Friend's Wedding. The detail adds to the big picture - little things like a dog called Lance (the producer's name) who like Sinatra songs, and extraordinary, yet typical Aussie down-to-earth warming, Paperback Hero is a winner from start to finish - a film with a big, big heart.
- Urban CineFile, Louise Keller
Hollywood Reporter Writes ...
An Australian romancer starring Hugh Jackman ("X-Men") as Jack, a driver of "road trains" and a closet writer, 1998's "Paperback Hero" (96 minutes) is a solid debut by screenwriter-director Antony J. Bowman that may travel a bit further with the higher profile of its lead.
Not surprisingly, there's very little of Jackman's "X-Men" character Wolverine in his rugged, affable "Hero" heartthrob, but there are plenty of young Mel Gibson vibes. Paired with the equally buoyant, attractive Claudia Karvan as drop-dusting, biplane-flying Ruby, Jackman is effortlessly charismatic, while many of the rowdy supporting characters provide genuine fireworks. A sophisticated, single publisher (Angie Milliken) from Sydney comes looking for Ruby, the name Jack used when he submitted his spec romance novel written during lonely times on the road.
When the book is declared a huge success, and fame, fortune and fun beckon, Ruby goes along with the ruse, but it's not hard to see where things will end up. Agreeably upbeat and filled with expected sequences of gung-ho Aussie living, "Paperback" is light on its feet and pleasantly diverting.
-The Hollywood Reporter, David Hunterr
Hot Ticket ...
Among many delightful and gently ironic scenes in Paperback Hero is one where George, a collector of old aircraft, is hanging around an outback hanger looking to buy a crop duster.
The resident mechanic mutters about some things not being for sale where upon George says: "every thing has got a price where I come from". To which the mechanic replies gently: "Well, that would be a great place, George.
Well, this is a great place - the fictional outback joint called Lucktown, which boasts in its dry, barren and dusty centre a café and a pub. And that's Lucktown in its entirety.
Heading into Lucktown with a thirst and a fury (his roadtrain has just had fertiliser dumped on it), is Jack (Hugh Jackman) the epitome of the rugged outback individualist. His bete noir is in the cafe: she is Ruby Vale (Claudia Karvan) by name, tough by nature and the pilot of that aforesaid cropduster.There's some wrestling, some genial abuse and Jack dumps Ruby in the water - both swearing revenge for the future. Ruby is engaged to Jacks' best friend, the local vet and gentle-natured Hamish (Andrew S. Gilbert).It's a long standing engagement, because Ruby hasn't enough money for the large wedding she has planned.
Into Lucktown strides with purpose Ziggy (Angie Milliken), a big city publisher ready to do a deal with Ruby for a romantic novel she has just written. Trouble is that Jack wrote the book under Ruby's name and, like it or not, this is the way for both of them to glean some success. Jack can see his book win acclaim in Sydney; Ruby can have the wedding paid for by the publisher. All very well and good, but even these two bright bush babies have trouble finding themselves in the big city. And the question of being true to themselves their friends and the book also torments them.
Not your usual love story this one: it gently roams around the largely neglected, laconic humour Australians specialise in, and produces a rich and warming bundle of characters. Jeanie Drynan as the very nice and hugely oppressed wife of the pub owner (played with gruesome bullying enthusiasm by Bruce Venables), Andrew S. Gilbert doing a complete volte-face on his Kiss or Kill character, and Milliken all provide a very strong and often very funny but totally credible background for the two central characters to play out their own comedy and romantic farce.
This is a magical pairing on screen - Karvan we have seen before often enough and she has matured, especially in the past few years, as a performer of depth and style. Here she brings an engaging tomboyish feel to her character. The way she and Jackman bounce off each other is a lesson for many other young Australian actors. They make it look natural, funny and fun. And Jackman, at present making a major name for himself on the stage in London, is a magnificent actor on screen; flickering from concerned to reticent to teasing with a crinkle of his eyes.
It is grand fun and fun that encapsulates much that is fun about Australia and Australians.
This little comedy is right up there with the best.
- The Sunday Telegraph (Australia)
Five Stars ...
Rough and ready trucker Jack (Jackman) drives across the Australian outback with his trusty hound and a clipboard by his side. And every time there's a lull he scribbles snippets of a trashy romantic story. Jack sends off the dog-eared manuscript to a Sydney publisher not expecting to hear back. But - surprise! - the publishers think it's going to be a best seller, and a skinny, pretentious Ziggy (Angie Milliken) arrives to get him to sign on the dotted line. At this point Jack lets best pal Ruby (Karvan) into his secret mainly because, to save himself a ribbing from his macho peers, Jack has used her name as his pseudonym. But for crop-spraying pilot Ruby, being convincing as a budding author is going to be difficult.
It's easy to guess what happens on their journey but it's so honest and likeable and the relationships so warm and real, the predictability soon turns to familiarity. Great cinematography captures the spectacular scenery and the directing is as assured as the stimulating array of characters. Jack, while suffering a hygiene problem which stems from sleeping with pooch in his lorry's cab, is not the typical all-brawn-and-no-brains type, and strong but sympathetic Ruby doesn't need high heels and lashings of make-up to be sexy.
In essence, writer-director Bowman has parodied his handsome hero by creating a surprisingly well-rounded female character, and spinning a good deal more watchability than you'd otherwise expect. Rated 5 stars!
•Bowman got the idea for the story after he saw a news report in LA about a Texan truck driver who wrote romantic novels.
•Bowman spent his formative years in the Australian bush, so filming there was like a home away from home.
- Empire, Jessica Mellor