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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Thursday, October 21, 2004

Wenham in Hawai'i for fun, film festival

 •  Be sure to catch these 10 film-fest offerings

By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

It's not the sort of Hawaiian vacation itinerary you find in a Berlitz guide, but David Wenham says a visit to a Hansen's disease community on Moloka'i and a solid week of watching movies in a darkened theater sounds like paradise to him.

David Wenham, shown here in "Van Helsing," is in Hawai'i this week to participate in the Louis Vuitton Hawaii International Film Festival.

Universal Studios

Officially, Wenham, known best to American audiences as the noble but underappreciated Faramir in Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, is in Hawai'i this week to participate in the Louis Vuitton Hawaii International Film Festival.

Unofficially, the Australian actor intends on catching up with some old friends, introducing his year-old daughter Eliza to the Islands, and catching as many good films as he can.

The festival opens tonight at the Hawaii Theatre with the Olivier Assayas film "Clean," starring Maggie Cheung.

On Tuesday, Wenham will introduce the acclaimed Australian film "Gettin' Square," for which he won a best actor award from the Australian Film Institute. The film screens at 8 p.m. at the Hawaii Theatre.

On Oct. 28, the actor will conduct a seminar, "A Conversation with David Wenham and the Craft of Acting."

Acting clinic

• "A Conversation with David Wenham and the Craft of Acting"

• 6 p.m. Oct. 28

• Doris Duke Theatre

• Free with film-festival flash pass or a free ticket from the Dole Cannery box office.

"It'll be relatively free and open," Wenham said of the seminar. "We'll keep it loose on structure so we can freewheel a little."

Wenham is also expected to appear at Sunday's screening of "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" at Sunset on the Beach.

Wenham played the lead role in the 1999 film "Molokai: The Story of Father Damien," shot on Moloka'i. The film told the true-life story of Father Damien (Joseph de Veuster), a Belgian priest who attended to a colony of Hansen's disease (then called leprosy) patients at Kalaupapa, Moloka'i.

On Tuesday, Wenham took a day trip to Kalaupapa to visit with some of the friends he made while filming the movie.

"It was a joy to reunite with them," he said. "Just terrific."

Wenham's acting career has taken him back and forth from theater to television to film, in an amazingly wide variety of roles.

From humble Damien to the pyromaniac Doug in "Cosi," and from the transvestite playwright Audrey in "Moulin Rouge" to the sword-slinging Faromir, Wenham has distinguished himself by never playing to type.

In "Gettin' Square," Wenham plays Johnny Spitieri, a dim ex-con struggling to go straight — to "get square."

"The film is essentially a heist comedy, but what is most interesting is that it's character based," Wenham explained. "There are characters who live bizarre lives in a very colorful environment. 'Spit' is one of life's losers, but you can't help but love him."

Wenham's character is also a heroin addict, which gives him a strange something in common with "Lord of the Rings" co-star Dominic Monaghan (Meriadoc Brandybuck).

Monaghan plays a heroin-addicted rock 'n' roll has-been on the ABC series "Lost."

Wenham says he and Monaghan, who lives in Lanikai, plan on getting together.

Wenham, like Monaghan, has had little problem adjusting to the adoration he receives from the international community of "Rings" fans. "There is a core of fans that are total fanatics," he said. "But it hasn't been negative at all. It's been a heap of fun.

"Billy Boyd (Pippin Peregrin in "The Lord of the Rings") and I did a Q&A at the Comic Con in San Diego this year and there were 14,000 people there," he said. "It was overwhelming, but always fun."

Wenham has two more films in the works. "Three Dollars," based on an Elliot Perlman novel, is in post-production and is set for release next year. "The Proposition," a western based on a story by rocker-turned-author Nick Cave, is in pre-production.

But for the next 11 days at least, Wenham said he's strictly a movie fan.

"I'm really interested in seeing all of these great films," Wenham said of the festival. "I'm going in completely open and view these films with no expectation. I'm just going to go in and be surprised and moved and stimulated."

Reach Michael Tsai at mtsai@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-2461.