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:: Spotlight :: Martin Henderson - Torque's lead bikie

By: Carmine Pascuzzi

Martin Henderson first came to my notice when the New Zealand television series ‘Shortland Street’ aired on SBS approximately ten years ago. He had very short stints in other shows before taking the path to Hollywood to try his luck. He has appeared in ‘Windtalkers’, ‘A Piece Of My Heart”, yet he would have been further noticed in the film ‘The Ring’ from a couple of years ago, in which he starred opposite Naomi Watts. Martin had a relatively hard time trying to establish himself in America and the encouragement of his good mate Heath Ledger helped pave the way for what should be a fulfilling career in film.

I met Martin whilst he was in Melbourne to promote the film ‘Torque’, in which he is the lead actor. When asked about this transition from New Zealand to California, he says, “It was a gradual move. It’s funny because people say now that you’re doing this big Hollywood film. For me, I had to live every single day and there were more days of not getting a lead role than there were. There have been years and years of other days. It’s been a really tough slog but also amazing to live in New York and Los Angeles and meeting the challenges.”

Martin’s role in Torque reminds of a young action man like Sylvester Stallone or Kurt Russell, in having the charisma and style to go with a tough persona. He seems set for a good career in this style. He agrees, “Hopefully this will be a stepping stone. I’m really happy the way the movie turned out and it could result in more opportunities in Hollywood and back in Australasia. I’m actually planning to do a film in Sydney later this year with Cate Blanchett. I would like to keep working in Australia and New Zealand. I would love to do more action films and balance it with other work. I have a great respect for the craft of acting. I want to keep the serious side going, but there’s a great place for entertainment cinema. Action heroes are fun ”

With first-time director Joseph Khan at the helm, it was interesting time for all the actors in adjusting to his techniques. Khan has been an expert in making music videos and Martin knew that working with him would be a big challenge. “Because he came from a music video background, which is much about the visual sense and style, I had to trust him in the need to tell a story. This was vital if the film was going to work. A lot of what he did was making sure the angle was right or that the look was right. As an actor, you are more concerned about your performance. So I had to do what I could do as an actor but at the same time, honour what he was doing from a technical standpoint. For example, it was about having your head at a certain angle or having the bike at a certain point. It was a precise way to make a film. He did a great job.”

Stunt guys played a significant part, especially when Martin and Ice Cube’s characters were doing the train chase scene. “All the insurance guys had to do the train scene. They would do certain shots of you being in a big rig on my bike. There was a trolley that screwed around. However, much of the riding in the movie is us.”

Martin enjoyed working with the other cast members and hopes that people don’t analyse the film too much. “It is great entertainment and was fun to do. Working with people like Ice Cube was fantastic. He is real cool. His reputation is pretty fierce but there’s a sweeter side to him. At the end of the day, he’s a family man. The others were great too. Everyone had affection for each other. Everyone wanted to be a part of the film and went that extra length with it. I felt it was very important to play my character with a strong sense of irony and humour; somewhat tongue-in-cheek in sending up the genre.”

As for the future, Martin says, “A little posse has been established now. I suppose we’ll see how this film goes. If it makes enough money, it will go on for more adventures. Aside from that, I have an upcoming film with Cate Blanchett, as I mentioned before, plus ‘Bride and Prejudice’, a contemporary adaptation of Jane Austen’s book ‘Pride and Prejudice.”

See Martin Henderson in ‘Torque’, now showing on general release around Australia.

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