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The new Australian film The BBQ opens in cinemas this week. It’s the story of an average Australian suburbanite, Dazza (Shane Jacobson), who gets drawn into the fierce competitive world of international barbecue competitions. The BBQ is a traditional feel good comedy about a little Aussie battler going against the odds, very much in the spirit of The Castle (even name checking the Kerrigans in one scene). DAVID O’CONNELL sat down with Shane Jacobson and actor/celebrity chef Manu Feildel to chew the fat about The BBQ.

So important questions first, did you get to keep the leather waistcoat with cooking utensils sewn on, and the Captain Cook inspired dressing gown (two costumes that Manu and Shane wear in the film)?

M: No, as this is going to be as famous as Star Wars, and the costumes are going to cost millions of dollars.

So they’re going to be in a museum after this?

S: That’s right, they’ve been sent to the Tower of London and live with the Queen’s jewels.

Fair enough. Shane, what attracted you to the role of Dazza?

S: He is the average Australian. It sounds wrong to say that – he’s the positive Australian. He’s ever the optimist. He’s the guy that holds barbecues regularly and invites the locals around, of any ethnicity and background, and creates that sense of community. I do love that character, he’s the average Joe (or average Daz) . We say the underdog, but he is… us. Australians are the underdog, and we’re proud being just your average Joe. He loves his family, and loves being that guy that provides a meeting place around the hotplate. I love that, and I’ve often thought about the fact – “how’s a film about a barbecue not been made before?” Now we’ve done it, we think it’s an obvious one.

Why do you think the barbecue has such an important place in Australian culture?

M: I think the first Christmas I witnessed here 18 years ago was revolutionary, because I bought one of those carry on barbecues and I went on the beach with my wife and kids. I got some little bits of chicken and some shrimp, and it was a totally different Christmas than I’d ever spent in my life. I was used to cold winters and roasts… and barbies are very Australian. Now are they the best? Far from it, but they’re very proud of their barbecues.

S: We’ve been on a bit of a learning experience together, as Manu comes from a world of food and culture, whereas I’m an Aussie that burns meat. And that was a question I posed to him, “are we the proudest?” It doesn’t mean we’re great at it. I think what it is, is a great totem pole for us all to meet at. If you’re going to meet mates, you meet them at a barbecue. You just heat up a bit of steel, and throw something on that looks like meat and that is the meeting place. And that’s the bit I think we are proud of. In those places you come with families and kids and girlfriend, and everyone’s part of it. Not only that, but we’re blessed by the best weather at the end of a long year when everyone comes together with much to celebrate. So l think that is why we’ve got a bit to celebrate.

M: I think it is very Australian. Even in Sydney you have these parks with the coin-operated barbeques, and you say to your mates “let’s catch upon Sunday, I’ll bring the sausages,” and suddenly there is families running around, and there is this fiat top in the middle. It’s Aussie. Plastic plates, plastic cutlery, and a bucket of Ice with all the drinks popped in. That for me is what Australian Summer is all about.

So can you pick up any cooking tips from The BBQ?

S: It’s not a cooking lesson unfortunately. People who watch Top Gun can’t come out and fly an airplane.

M: It is a great representation of Australian life. Obviously I play a different role in there. I am the arrogant French dude that thinks he’s God. Very proud of himself with the leather vest with the tweezers and stuff.

S: The barbecue biker.

M: ….and the competition, and I just want to crush him.

You’re basically the Cobra Kai kid to Ralph Macchio there…

M: Exactly

S: Still the best Karate Kid.

So what was it like to have Magda Szubanski (playing a character known as The Butcher) yelling at you, because she’s terrifying in the role?

M: I was amazed by her, not merely the accent but the vocabulary that comes with it. When she was angry with us, and trying to throw knives at us, she was so real.

S: Her mum was Scottish, so she wanted to season the dialogue with a few herbs and spices, to make it a bit more spicy… and herby.

M: It brings even more character. This small woman who is the bloody boss, and everyone’s shaking around her. She’s a huge character.

Shane did you ever imagine yourself playing the underdog in a sporting film (which is what this essentially is)?

S: I never once imagined myself in a sporting movie for three reasons, and they are the three numbers that represent my weight. You’re right it’s like the Coolangatta Gold of barbecues. But the truth is, the reason it feels like that is the world of barbecueing. That’s real, a lot of the filming was at barbecue competitions. It’s serious business. It is a very competitive world. They have their own rubs and sauces, and they’re not telling you what’s in it.

M: They have their mixture of wood for smoking. It is a labour of love this business. You should try and get there.

[I admit to being a vegetarian… after the laughter, disbelief and good natured ribbing dies down…]

S: Thank you for leaving more meat for me. Just so you know, the director’s (Stephen Amis) a vegetarian.

Yeah, he came up with the idea cooking tofu at a barbecue didn’t he?

S: It’s kind of strange, but you think about it and it’s not. You can be a pacifist and realize that Mohamed Ali was good in a fight, and he (Amis) recognizes all the things the film celebrates. It’s about the barbecue obviously, but it’s about family, it is about culture, it’s about coming together. It’s a movie. At the start it is strange, but his craft is making films.

The BBQ opens in cinemas February 22.

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