With Goran Stolevski’s achingly romantic Of An Age opening in US theaters today, the film’s lead actors Elias Anton and Thom Green spoke exclusively with The Queer Review’s editor James Kleinmann about taking on their roles and how they approached the challenge of playing their characters at different ages.
Hailed in our ★★★★★ review as “an instant queer classic”, Of An Age is set in suburban Melbourne during the summer of 1999 over an unforgettable 24 hours for Serbian immigrant Kol (Elias Anton). On the cusp of turning 18, his plan to take part in the Australian Dance finals are put in jeopardy when his best friend and dance partner Ebony (Hattie Hook) wakes up on an unknown beach miles away from the venue on the morning of the event. On a frantic mission to retrieve Ebony and get her to the hall on time to compete, Kol gets into the car of her self-assured older brother Adam (Thom Green) and an unexpected and intense connection between the young men quickly forms. A decade on, the characters are reunited.
James Kleinmann, The Queer Review: congratulations to both of you on your beautiful performances in the film. What were your initial reactions to Goran Stolevski’s screenplay?
Thom Green: “It was during Covid lockdown in Sydney, back in Australia. I remember reading it in full and telling my agents, ‘This is brilliant, I love it and I want to be a part of this’. But what really sold it to me was the mood reel that Goran sent and his breakdown of his vision for the film. What sealed the deal specifically was when he mentioned how he always thought that great times in your life came from places where you’re not based. He gave examples of places in Wong Kar-Wai’s films. He said that he always thought of stories coming out of these fantastical places in the world, but then changed his mind and decided that these stories actually exist in your day-to-day life, even if you live somewhere that’s not as glamorous as those places. I’m from a relatively small area south of Sydney, a town called Wollongong. Growing up there, I can definitely remember feeling that life was always happening elsewhere. So that resonated with me and when I read that, after reading the script, I instantly felt really connected to it.”
Elias Anton: “I’m from Melbourne myself, so I definitely had a strong connection in that sense. When reading the script, it was more about the feeling that I got from it and thinking how the audience would feel. I had an emotional connection to it. I like the character arc, especially with the time jump. Goran compared it Moonlight and recommended that I watch it. It’s a really powerful film. This was something that I really wanted to be a part of and I looked into some of what Goran had done before and I was really looking forward to working with him.”
There’s so much going on in that intimate first car scene between your characters. What was your approach and what kind of atmosphere did Goran create on set? He told me that he kept the camera rolling before and after the scripted dialogue.
Thom: “It was early on in the shoot when we shot those moments where they first meet each other, so we were still quite nervous on set and still trying to gage how Goran likes to work. He doesn’t like to take two hours to block and to light and to set up, it’s more about you feeling where your character should be. He’ll be like, ‘if you’re ready, let’s just start rolling and let’s shoot the rehearsal’.”
Elias: “He put a lot of trust in us and at first it was a little bit nerve-wracking. Especially coming straight out of COVID lockdowns. I hadn’t worked in a little while, so jumping straight on to set and the director just handing you all this trust and responsibility was a bit overwhelming to begin with, but we rolled with it and made it work.”
Thom: ‘We were able to harness that, because in that first moment between them there are definitely those fluttery feelings of something in the air. So I think those feelings were useful.”
You mentioned that there is a time jump, and the action goes from 1999 to 2010. Watching the film I felt sure that you’d had at least six months in between shooting the different time periods because they felt so distinctive. What was that experience like of revisiting these characters a decade on, but in real life as actors it was only a few days later?
Elias: “A lot of it for me was about how I would hold myself. I actually felt a lot more comfortable playing the older version of Kol than I did the younger because there was more vulnerability and insecurity at the start of the film. That was a little hard to harness because we filmed all the younger stuff first. With the 2010 part of the film, that’s actually my natural weight, so I had to lose quite a bit of weight before we started filming the earlier scenes.”
So did you hit the gym before shooting the 2010 scenes?
Elias: “I couldn’t because it was actually at the end of the lockdowns, so I couldn’t risk being in public spaces. We were all in our little social bubbles, so I was doing what I could in my apartment and eating a lot!”
Thom: “Just in case you were wondering James, that was my natural buffness in the 2010 scenes. I obviously looked like I had hit the gym as well!”
When we first meet your character Elias, he’s doing one side of a rumba alone in his garage and later we see him break out some impressive moves on the dance floor. Have you got a dance background or was that something you had to work at?
Elias: “No, we just we had a really good choreographer, Lauren Drago. I worked with her extensively for a long time leading up to that. I’d say the garage dance was a quite a bit more difficult because we had to do it as though Hattie’s character was there, so I had to play the other part of it too in a sense. So that was quite a challenge. Don’t ask me to do it now because that’s long gone!”
By James Kleinmann
Goran Stolevski’s Of An Age opens in US theaters on Friday, February 17th, 2023 from Focus Features, head here for local showtimes.