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The King and I

Elvis movie
Austin Butler in Elvis. Pictures: Warner Bros.

Eight Bondies who worked on Baz Luhrmann’s biopic Elvis feature in the latest edition of the alumni magazine the Arch. Patrick Buckley was among those taking care of business. 

Patrick Buckley sat on Baz Luhrmann’s back deck, sipping a glass of champagne and chatting to Tom Hanks, his hunger sated by oysters and caviar.

To borrow a slogan from a popular theme park, it was Hollywood on the Gold Coast – yet Mr Buckley thought to himself, ‘This isn’t the life for me.’ It was the second time he had taken stock of his career path. The first came during his first crack at a university degree when he was studying a Bachelor of Mechatronics at the University of Queensland.

“I was studying robotics, doing maths and physics and I got a year into it before I realised I just wasn’t enjoying myself,’’ he says. “I had a friend who went to Bond, and he encouraged me to have a look.

I went to orientation for the film and TV course and I found my people there.’’

Mr Buckley (Class of 2014) has enjoyed steady work since graduating in 2016, boasting a list of credits for sound effects or editorial roles on Hollywood films that include Thor Ragnarok, Dr Strange, Doraand the Lost City of Gold, Guardians of the Tomb and Winchester. TV has been just as productive with gigs on Tidelands, The Bureau of Magical Things, Grace Beside Me and Harrow. None prepared him for his time on the set of Elvis, in a role tailor-made for any budding film buff with dreams of becoming a director.

Elvis film

Before production was shut down due to Covid-19 in March 2020, Mr Buckley had secured a job on dailies, the industry term for the raw unedited footage which is collected at the end of each day. It wasn’t his dream job, however the work was supposed to be steady and the opportunity to be part of a feature film the size of Elvis was too good to ignore. When the resumption was greenlit for September, Mr Buckley was once again in talks with the producers, this time for a spot on the editorial team which is where his passion and skillset lies. That’s when he received the call, while working on another production in Cairns, that would set him on the type of rollercoaster ride that wouldn’t be out of place at the above-mentioned theme park.

“The producer said to me, ‘The second your plane lands, get in the car and drive to Baz’s place’,’’ he says. “When I got there, I thought it was going to be a job interview, but he ended up grilling me on my life for about two hours, asking me about my childhood and what my parents did, that sort of stuff. Then he abruptly stood up and said, ‘You start Monday’, and that was it.’’ And so began a hectic year-long stint that would see him spend 12 hours a day as Mr Luhrmann’s right-hand man, get repeatedly punked by Mr Hanks and make friends with Austin Butler, the actor who has won rave reviews for his portrayal of Elvis.

“I would never have gone for a role like that,’’ he says. “I was originally doing a job I don’t really enjoy doing, then I ended up going for a job as an assistant editor which I usually like, and it turned into this crazy make-it-up-as-we-go type job that I would never have imagined experiencing. I called myself the director’s media manager or creative manager. He had a researcher and a personal assistant, and I was almost in the middle. I helped with his day-to-day stuff, but I also helped with writing, I was his photographer. It was the most stressful job I’ve ever had, and I got told all the time that if I can survive that, I can survive anything. It was eye-opening and it was a great experience, but I believe I belong in post-production.’’ He headed straight back to an edit suite and has just wrapped-up Joe Exotic, the Stan remake of The Tiger King. However, thanks to Elvis, he will forever be able to hold court at any party by name dropping a couple of Hollywood A-listers. 

Elvis movie

“Tom Hanks is just like a friendly dad walking around on set, cracking jokes and he would always try to flick the cap off your coffee cup with his cane and then just disappear into the night,’’ he says. “And Austin Butler was probably the friendliest person I ever hung out with. Baz would have us back at his place for after-work drinks on a Friday and Austin was always just great company. That is the glamourous side of things. Baz would say, ‘I might just have drinks after work today’, and it was a spur of the moment thing but when you arrived he would already have an oyster bar set up, there would be caviar. It was another world.’’ 

Although he remains convinced his future lies in an edit suite and not under the bright lights of a movie set, Mr Buckley said the time spent with Mr Luhrmann was tremendously beneficial to his career. “It gave me a new level of confidence and I ended up starting my own business, Patty Post, which I don’t think I would have considered before my time with Baz,’’ he says.

Edition 31 of the Arch is out now.

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