To describe Ron Falk as a highly accomplished performer of the Australian stage would be an understatement. His career has spanned several decades and has encompassed over 10 years working in the UK, experimental theatre in The Netherlands and a raft of stage credits with Australia’s biggest state theatre companies.
It may come as a surprise to learn that Falk, who turns 80 next week, even voiced the role of Dexter Jettster in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
Falk is currently appearing in Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s production of Lisa D’Amour’s Detroit (directed by Ross McGregor, closing today). He gave Theatre People the lowdown on his role in George Lucas’ 2002 epic prequel, and how his involvement in the project came about while playing Bolshintsov in Ivan Turgenev’s A month in the country in Sydney. “The casting director came along, and I think she rather liked the sound of my voice,” Falk recalls. “They called me for an audition and sent me the script.”
Falk attended the audition but was less than satisfied with his performance. “I made a right mess of it,” he says. Fortunately, that wasn’t the end of it. “There must’ve been something they liked about me because they got in touch with me three weeks later and said, ‘Ronnie, come back and have another crack at that audition’. So I went back and did it, and I ended up with a scene with Ewan McGregor.”
Falk fondly remembers his experience playing opposite McGregor, as well as the process six months’ later re-voicing his character in Melbourne. “George Lucas was directing me by phone from America, so that was wonderful,” he says. Reflecting on his role in one of the biggest blockbuster film series of all time, Falk says, “That was fun to do… The fan mail has [now] gotten down to a dull roar.”
Falk, currently based in Lara, Victoria, confides to Theatre People that his start on Detroit was also slightly rocky. “They sent me the wrong copy of the script. I learned that for six weeks.” It wasn’t until he arrived at rehearsals that the mistake was picked up. “On the first day when I launched into it, they said, ‘Ronnie, that’s the wrong script’.” But things turned around quickly from that point. “I went home and I did a really tough night’s study. By the next morning, I had the new script roughly down. They were very impressed, and I was impressed too because I thought it was impossible!”
Falk is thoroughly enjoying being a part of Detroit and hopes the play’s audiences will understand how simply knowing and checking in with neighbours has the potential to make a difference to their lives. “One of the things that impressed me when I first read the script was you really don’t know who your neighbours are,” Falk says. “In Lara, I know my neighbour on one side…[But] the people on the other side…don’t talk at all…There’s no dialogue.”
Another key theme of Detroit is the identity struggles many go through when faced with the prospect of unemployment. Falk thinks it’s important for men to have hobbies and interests to pursue, which can help give them a sense of direction in those challenging times. “When I’m out of work, I’m absolutely delighted because I can get on with these other things. I think there are so many men, who find themselves at a loose end at about 60, and don’t know what to do with themselves,” he opines.
Outside of the theatre, Falk himself is a guitarist and has a keen interest in painting. “I gave up acting for two years, and went to Wollongong Tech and did a course in art, sculpture, painting, history of art [and] printmaking…It was really terrific, and I came back feeling wonderful.”
Falk’s been fortunate to have worked solidly in theatre for a very extended period of time, and is grateful for the variety throughout his performing career. “Doing what I’m doing, I’ve never really been in a year’s run, which is wonderful. The most I’ve done is about three months. You never really get bored.”
After Detroit closes today, Falk will head back to Melbourne to film six episodes of ABC Television’s Jack Irish, starring Guy Pearce in the title role as a former criminal lawyer turned private investigator and debt collector. And if that’s not enough, you should also expect to see Falk treading the boards on stage with a Victorian theatre company again some time soon!
Ron Falk appears in Detroit at the Darlinghurst Theatre (Read Theatre People’s review of Detroit here.)