Alex Dimitriades has taken on varied and interesting roles since Australian audiences were first exposed to him in The Heartbreak Kid. His latest film, Summer Coda, a romantic drama set against the backdrop of the harsh Victorian town Mildura, sees him take on another extraordinary character.
The film revolves around Heidi (Rachel Taylor) returning to Australia to attend her father’s funeral and the relationship that evolves between Heidi and Dimitriades’ character Michael. Heidi hitches a ride with Michael, an orange grove owner on the way to Mildura and after a nasty meeting with her relatives, decides to take a job as an orange picker on Michael’s property. Both Heidi and Michael are wounded souls and this is revealed as the film progresses.
Dimitriades says the role resonated with him and he saw it as a “breath of fresh air. I received the script and was wrapped up in something else at the time and almost forgot about it so nearly lost it,” he says. “Then I got a reminder from my agent about the script so I gave it a read… by the time I was half way down I thought to myself; ‘better get on that phone now!’ so I hadn’t even finished reading it before I had locked in a meeting because it felt good, it felt right.”
Summer Coda was filmed over seven weeks, of which Dimitriades says the first two were exceptionally difficult to cope with physically. “I stepped off the plane and onto the tarmac and thought I would collapse it was so hot,” he describes. “Honestly, it felt like God was pointing the hottest hairdryer in your face.”
While the heat had its place, the luxury of filming Summer Coda chronologically was one the many perks. It helped develop off-screen relationships which, in turn, made the on-screen relationship between himself and Taylor flourish. “We met, we didn’t really know each other,” he says. “We spent a lot of time in the car together, as do the characters on their little journey into town.”
Having never formally trained as an actor, Dimitriades finds it difficult to describe his method when approaching a role, believing it is very much to do with the help of others involved and in this case, working director Richard Gray, who also wrote the film. “To be honest with you, I don’t know myself. I don’t know how I actually do what I do,” he laughs.
“There’s definitely an emotional shift that takes place. It’s not one sided, it’s a collaborative affair.
“My mum passed away just weeks before we started shooting so that was a bit of a tricky time. I was kind of in a weird space. It’s pretty uncanny the way characters are dealing with loss, that was so fresh on me, maybe taught me about the universe more than myself.”
Summer Coda has been years in the making and Dimitriades says it was pretty satisfying to be a part of assisting in the completion of the project and helping Gray reach his dream. There weren’t many disagreements on set either Dimitriades reveals before continuing. “This is silly, almost, for five minutes it was an important point. I felt that there were too many beards in the show,” he laughs.
“Bit of my own paranoia there. I was like ‘hang on a second, there’s one too many fucking beards here, something’s gotta give’.”
Summer Coda screens at Somerville as part of PIAF until Sunday, December 5. For screening times head to perthfestival.com.au.