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An open letter to the AACTA: vote for Gary Waddell or I will burn your houses to the ground

The King is Dead! star Gary Waddell has been nominated for an AACTA Award. It would be a damn shame if voters didn’t recognise his incredible performance.

Gary Waddell

Dear AACTA members

You’ve seen him before, in real-life. He was that ratty looking guy on the train mumbling to himself. The man on the street asking for change. The bloke at the bus stop drinking from a stubby. The out-of-it bum being questioned by the cops.

Over the course of our day-to-day lives every Australian has witnessed elements of The King, the wastoid bogan played by veteran character actor Gary Waddell in Rolf de Heer’s dark comedy The King is Dead!

But, amazingly, we’ve never seen this character brought to life on screen with a patina of the power, edge, hilarity and realism of Waddell’s performance, which was nominated for an AACTA Award earlier this week.

Waddell chalked up an AFI nom in 1976  for his role in the controversial guerrilla film Pure Shit! The once drug-afflicted and homeless actor turned his life around several decades ago and has now delivered — in my view — one of the best comedic performances ever committed by an Australian on film.

It would be a damn shame if you didn’t vote for him. I have nothing against the other nominees for the Best Supporting Actor category, but Waddell is out of this world good. You don’t get a chance to vote for a performance of this calibre very often. I urge you to do so or — to use the parlance of King himself — I will burn every one of your houses to the ground.

I’m kidding, of course. But not about voting for Waddell. His performance impressed me so much I emailed the publicist right after the screening: “I have to interview Gary.” When I met him my respect for the man and his performance went to the next level when I discovered him to be eloquent, smart and softly spoken. Everything King is not.

You don’t have to take my word for it. In case you’re interested in what other critics thought, here’s a small selection of quotes from other reviewers about his performance. For the record, other than being a fan, I’m not in any way associated with The King is Dead! But I would like to share a jug of beer — preferably a celebratory one — with Gary one day.

That is, if he promises not to burn my house down.

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“A wonderfully touching and humorous portrayal of an inadequate, frightened and bewildered little man”
Evan Williams, The Australian

“A perfect role for Waddell, who well and truly earns his place in the ragbag hall of fame. In other words, long live the King”
Jake Wilson, The Age

“Gary Waddell is hilarious”
Margaret Pomeranz, At the Movies

“It’s a piece of acting so good you spend the movie waiting for him to turn up”
Peter Galvin, SBS Films 

“It is veteran character actor Waddell, as the titular King, who makes the surreal a stony-faced reality”
Richard Gray, The Reel Bits

“A superb performance”
Stephen Fitzpatrick, The Australian

“His take on the King is magnificent…to see that brought to life on screen was awesome”
Rich Haridy, The Parallax Podcast

“King stole the show”
Joya D, Weekend Notes

“Waddell’s spot-on performance keeps the character human and even evokes a strange sympathy”
Richard Kuipers, Variety 

“Gary Waddell is wondrously amusing as the batty old ragbag drugdealer King, delivering a physically eloquent performance”
Andrew L. Urban, Urban Cinefile

“Waddell invests King with a burnt-out simplicity that’s comical and piteous”
Megan Legmann, The Hollywood Reporter 

“Gary Waddell as the King is just such a funny character”
Alex Thomas, Time for a Film 

“A brilliant, twitching, shambling portrayal”
John Bale, The Blurb

“Waddell is a wonder, making a detestable character sympathetic”
Richard Cotter, Sydney Arts Guide

“Gary Waddell plays the disturbing King so well”
Dave Griffiths, Buzz Magazine

[Waddell] is perfect as the King and he brings a wonderfully dissolute and edgy quality”
Greg King

“Waddell is a standout”
Erin Free, Filmink Magazine

From hysterically funny in one moment to explosively violent the next, the performance is easily one of the best of the year”
Chris Smith, Film Blerg

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