With movie roles such as Ned Kelly in The Last Outlaw and Albert in Picnic at Hanging Rock, you’d have to say Jarratt’s presence on the big screen has always been inspiring and quintessentially Australian.
Now 64, in an exclusive interview with WYZA®, Jarratt says he’s definitely not entertaining any thoughts of retiring.
“I’ve got no thoughts about retiring at all,” he says. “I really love my job – I’m lucky like that,” he adds, then jokes: “Well at least I’m not fading off into obscurity. You know that 50 is the new 40, 80’s the new 70 and 90’s the new 80 and 100’s the new dead!”
Wolf Creek television series spin off
There’s one role which will make sure Jarratt never fades into obscurity and that’s Mick Taylor in the chilling Wolf Creek. First released in 2005, this violent thriller was such a hit that Wolf Creek 2 was released in 2013 and earlier this year, a new television series spin off called Wolf Creek was released on Stan.
Again Jarratt stars as the menacing Mick Taylor and the original Wolf Creek director, Greg McLean is both creator and director of the series. Reviews of the series have been good and when we ask Jarratt if Mick is one of his favourite characters, he says: “Well, that’s a really hard question because they’re all different. I played Ned Kelly back in 1979 in a mini-series and that was an incredible experience to get in Ned Kelly’s skin.”
“I’ve played some wonderful characters but Mick’s well and truly up there. He’s a good creation – an evil creation. He’s done well by me. I’m a bit worried that when I drop dead, and if there is a heaven, I’ll have to try and explain myself…” he laughs.
Jarratt on the set of Wolf Creek 2 (Image: Facebook / Real John Jarrratt)
Jarratt has previously referred to Mick Taylor as his ‘iconic’ character and when asked what he meant by this he explains it’s more about Mick becoming a ‘cult figure’.
“There are some huge fans of the character, all over the world,” he says. “So in that respect, he’s become ‘iconic.’ People know his name – Mick Taylor. He’s like Freddy Krueger… It’s a name … Hannibal Lecter, Crocodile Dundee… Mick Taylor. He’s just one of those, you know.”
And to anyone who’s worried about the graphic violence which is part of the Wolf Creek movies and series, Jarratt has this to say: “Look, he’s only pretend, he’s not real!”
Not just a star of the big screen
Jarratt’s very familiar with the television medium. He was the first man of home renovation shows, presenting Better Homes and Gardens in the 1990s with his wife at the time, Noni Hazlehurst. His other television roles include five years on McLeod’s Daughters and guest roles in Inspector Morse, Police Rescue, Blue Murder, Water Rats and Blue Heelers.
When asked how it feels to grow older, he laughs and says: “I don’t feel old. I only feel old when I look in the mirror – I think, Jesus Christ! But you know, I’m walking around and the body’s fine. I’ve got no aches and pains, I’m really lucky like that.”
“I’m fine, I’m healthy,” he adds. “I don’t smoke or drink or do drugs. I eat really well and I exercise. You do all that and you don’t get too old too quickly. I don’t try and think about getting old. I’m just going to keep moving until I drop dead,” he laughs.
Enjoying life right now
Currently, Jarratt is working on a documentary about the Australian film industry from 1971 until now, plus he has “a couple of movies in the fire plus some gun for hire work coming up”.
Five years ago he moved back from Queensland to live in Sydney, explaining he had initially moved north because his ex-wife moved there with his two young sons. But since then, they’ve grown up. “So there’s no reason for me to be up there now – and I do like Sydney,” he says.
Watch the preview of Wolf Creek 2
Earlier this year, Jarratt remarried his first wife, Rosa Miano, whom he had originally married 27 years ago. Since his first marriage to Miano, Jarratt has been married twice (once to actor Noni Hazlehurst and later to Cody Jarratt). He has six children from these three marriages.
Now happily settled down with Miano, Jarratt says he feels everything has happened the right way: “I’m very happy. I grew up and went home. I said, ‘hi honey, I’m home. I’ve straightened a few things out and now I’m ready to have another go’.”
“So I’ve ended up with the one I should have stayed with in the first place, so there you go,” he explains.
Fingers in many pies
As well as acting, over the past few years Jarratt has spent quite some time writing his life story and late last year he released his biography called Bastard from the Bush.
Asked if he enjoyed writing it, he says: “I didn’t particularly want to do it but I had people encouraging me so I thought oh well, I’ll do it. But then once I started doing it, it was very cathartic and I’m glad I did it now.”
He adds: “It made me really look hard at myself. It was a good exercise for me – I got a lot out of it.”
Jarratt was indeed born and raised in the Australian bush. He grew up in a small coal mining town called Wongawilli near Wollongong in New South Wales. His father was a coal miner and later a concreter, who worked on the Snowy Mountains hydroelectric scheme.
Jarratt's flawless of portrayal of Mick Taylor means he's not going to disapear from the business anytime soon
By the time Jarratt was in high school, his family had moved to Queensland and it was while he was at Longreach High School that Jarratt directed and acted in a school play. He put a lot of effort into it and it was a great success. So much so, his school principal recommended he pursue an acting career.
So Jarratt tried out for NIDA in Sydney and was accepted. He graduated in 1973 and started getting small parts as soon as he left. He says it was good timing because the Australian film industry was starting to “take off”.
Working with Tarantino
Jarratt’s reputation as an actor has spread internationally over the years and in 2003, Quentin Tarantino got off a plane in Sydney and said, “I want to meet John Jarratt – he’s my favourite Australian actor.”
So the two did meet up they became good friends. Years later, Tarantino cast Jarratt as an Australian in the deep south of America in his movie, Django Unchained. In an unusual chain of events, Jarratt ended up acting alongside Tarantino in the film.
Jarratt starred alongside Quentin Tarantino in the film Django Unchained (Image: Facebook / Real John Jarratt)
Jarratt explains it was supposed to be Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anthony LaPaglia acting as fellow Australians in the film, but because there’d been some delays in the shooting timetable, both of these actors could no longer do it. So Tarantino decided he would play the other Australian in the movie, alongside Jarratt.
Tarantino tried to learn the Australian accent “but what can I say? It’s the toughest accent in the world,” says Jarratt, “but I thought he went close. He’s a very good film maker. He’s one and Greg McLean’s another one who’s definitely up there.”
It’s well known that Tarantino likes our country and our culture. “He wants to be an Australian,” Jarratt says.
“He had an Australian girlfriend for ages. He’s always trying to find a place to shove an Australian. I keep telling him to make the bloody move here and get it over and done with but he won’t. LA to him is like New York is to Woody Allen, you know? So he visits.”
Keen to work with Mel
Asked if there are other directors he’d like to work with, Jarratt is quick to nominate Mel Gibson. The two Aussies have known each other for many years. Jarratt recommended Gibson for a role alongside him in 1977's Summer City many years ago. Gibson got the role and it was the start of his long career.
“I’d love to work with Mel. I think he’s amazing,” says Jarratt. “He’s up there with Scorsese and Tarantino and all those guys. Look at his work – I mean Apocalypto and Braveheart. He’s amazing. And word is out that Hacksaw Ridge is just brilliant so I’m very happy for him after all he’s been through. We’ve got a director there who’s as good as anyone on the planet. He’s a better actor than most directors too just quietly.”
Supporter for National Asbestos Awareness
As well as acting and writing, Jarratt lends his voice to some causes and one he feels very strongly about is the National Asbestos Awareness Month Campaign which is held throughout Australia next month in November.
It’s a matter that’s very close to his heart because he had a good friend called Harold Hopkins who was a fellow actor and at the same time a complete “fitness fanatic”.
Jarratt adds: “If you wanted to put money on somebody to get to 100, you’d put all your money on Harold.”
Sadly, Jarratt’s friend, Harold, died from mesothelioma at the age of 67. He had worked as a handyman when he was younger and had renovated a fibro house in 1968, which was when he must have been exposed to the asbestos.
“It killed him in six months, once he was diagnosed,” Jarratt explains. “So, it’s in memory of my good friend Harold because I don’t want people losing people for no good reason.”
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