We’ve all heard the old showbiz saying: ‘Never work with children or animals’ – but it appears no one bothered to tell one of Australia’s favourite entertainers, Shane Jacobson. As the host of Channel 7’s break-out series Little Big Shots he manages to hold his own amongst the country’s brightest young talent, and as Warrnambool’s own real-life chicken farmer Swampy in the 2015 film Oddball, Jacobson leads the cast in the true tale of an underdog.
However, those are just a couple of highlights in a career that spans over two decades spent on stage and in front of (and sometimes behind) the camera. Jacobson’s latest silver screen adventure is Stephen Amis’ The BBQ, a gentle comic fable with an exceptional ensemble cast. Alongside Magda Szubanski, Julia Zemiro, Nicholas Hammond and Manu Feildel, he stars as Darren ‘Dazza’ Cook, a laid-back suburban every-man who loves to entertain his family and neighbours with his weekly backyard barbecues, and is convinced he is a descendent of Captain James Cook.
“I know a Dazza Cook, and I think we all know a Dazza Cook,” Jacobson says. “I’ve got mates like him, without a doubt. He’s a kind-hearted guy and he’s happy with his life, but he’s no fool. Dazza would give you the shirt off his back, and every weekend he invites his neighbours, of all different backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities, to come together at his humble barbecue.”
Determined to uphold the tradition set by his father and his father’s father, Dazza cooks for his hungry guests on an ancient rum barrel barbecue that he believes was part of the cargo on Captain Cook’s Endeavour. Unfortunately things turn sour when he becomes a national laughing stock and is dubbed ‘Australia’s Biggest Meathead’, much to the chagrin of his vegan-loving daughter Montana and long suffering wife Diane (Zemiro), after unwittingly giving the entire neighbourhood food poisoning.
Then, things really start to heat up when Dazza is thrust into the limelight by his employer when the International BBQ Festival comes to town. Now under the tutelage of the mysterious Scottish chef, known only as The Butcher (Szubanski), and spurred on by his 12 year old son Jayden (Frederick Simpson), Dazza must restore honour to his family name and beat the obnoxious French chef Andre Montblanc (Feildel) in the process.
On screen Dazza and Montblanc portray a fierce foodie rivalry, but off screen Jacobson and Feildel became fast friends. “I’m missing him – I feel like we’ve been through a break up,” he laughs. “I’m back in Melbourne now without him – I’m kind of like a man without a dog at the moment. We’re good mates.”
Filmed mostly on location in Albury-Wodonga, Jacobson says that the cast and crew were embraced by the locals and that they spent a lot of the time trying to make each other laugh. “You know you’re in a fair bit of trouble when you work on a film with Magda, she’s so sharp – but I’m guilty of ad-libbing and joking around too, to tell you the truth. We do tend to carry on a bit, but Steven Amis, who co-wrote and directed the film, welcomes that – and a few of our little jokes ended up in the final edit,” he adds. “Magda would add her own flavour, and because her mum is Scottish she added old Scottish words. In fact, after the premiere I was approached by a Scottish man who said he hadn’t heard some of those words in years.
“Julia is great and Manu is hilarious, so it’s inevitable once you get enough funny people in a room, no matter what the job is, things are going to get loose!”
The BBQ is in cinemas nationally on Thursday, February 22.
Written by Natalie Rogers
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