Paul Hogan on Enough Rope with Andrew Denton

My first guest tonight is a very ordinary Australian, the kind you'd meet any weekend at the footy. His only claim to fame is that, ooh, about two billion people have an opinion on his work. Please welcome the laconic icon himself, Mr Paul Hogan.

Andrew Denton: I better get this out of the way. The little bandaid on the head. Just so we can crush all the stupid cosmetic surgery stuff right now. What's happened?

Paul Hogan: Well, it is cosmetic surgery.

Andrew Denton: Oh, right. (Laughs)

Paul Hogan: I got an extra eyebrow on there.

Andrew Denton: Oh, really?

Paul Hogan: So I can be more expressive as an actor.

Andrew Denton: I was going to ask if you've had your buttocks tucked, but I guess there's…

Paul Hogan: No, not enough there to tuck, mate.

Andrew Denton: Now we're getting too much information already there. We're just into the first moments. You've been back in Australia just over a year now. Is that good?

Paul Hogan: On a permanent basis? Oh, yeah. I was never away, like, um… I didn't call a press conference every time I came back. So I would be four or five times a year in Byron Bay, and the rest of the time in the States. But…you get the impression that I was gone for 10 years which, of course, is not true.

Andrew Denton: I was going to ask what you missed when you were away.

Paul Hogan: As soon as I missed something, I came back.

Andrew Denton: OK. Fair enough.

Paul Hogan: Simple as that.

Andrew Denton: Everyone I know that's ever lived in L.A. says it's a really strange town to live in. Is that how you found it?

Paul Hogan: It's weird, because, er… It's like a mining town, um, where, say, 10% of the people, the miners, actually work down the mine and the other 90% don't. And, er…but unlike a mining town, the miners don't leave town. They hang around and then talk to the ones that work down the mine. "What was it like today?" 'Cause that's, er… Hollywood is…L.A. is a town of unemployment. 90% of people in show business are not working at any given time.

Andrew Denton: The first time I went to L.A. I walked past a shop and — I couldn't believe it — in the window was a full chemical bodysuit for sale, which doesn't make you feel very relaxed. Did you have a gun in L.A.?

Paul Hogan: Yeah, I did have a gun.

Andrew Denton: Yeah?

Paul Hogan: I had an attempted break-in at one stage when I was in Beverly Hills.

Andrew Denton: Was it you attempting to break in with the gun, or somebody…?

Paul Hogan: I don't remember now. No, look, I don't want to go downstairs with a baseball bat and there's someone down there with a gun.

Andrew Denton: Where did you keep it?

Paul Hogan: Oh, you know, handy.

Andrew Denton: It wasn't on your person, was it?

Paul Hogan: I'm not gonna tell you that. If someone breaks into my house now…

Andrew Denton: You've still got one?

Paul Hogan: I have a cricket bat now I'm home.

Andrew Denton: The Australian gun. Beautiful. Did you ever consider, when you were in L.A., Scientology?

Paul Hogan: No. I'm not a religious man by nature, and the Scientology… No, I, er…that's too weird for me. Space aliens and all that kind of thing — no.

Andrew Denton: Tom Cruise didn't say, "Look, Paul, this works, this is good."

Paul Hogan: Tom and I were never that close.

Andrew Denton: Really?

Paul Hogan: I met him once or twice. He was a nice kid.

Andrew Denton: A nice kid?

Paul Hogan: Yeah.

Andrew Denton: You don't strike me as being, in that L.A. way, the sort of kissy-kissy love-your-work sort of guy.

Paul Hogan: No, I, um…I didn't knock around with sort of, um, movie stars and things. I had more friends in the executive side of it. You know, I was a producer and I was concerned with making the product and making money and not the artistic side of it.

Andrew Denton: You've described that process as 'grovelling'. And to people who have no idea what the business involves, can you give us some idea of what it is to pitch an idea in Hollywood?

Paul Hogan: You do have to grovel because you…you're dealing with cretins, mostly, to start with. And I mean that. These are the people that run the industry. I'm not talking about actors or anyone you know publicly, I'm talking about executives and those who run studios and agencies and all that. And most of them are stupid. Most of them have got no class and they're tacky sort of people. And you either come to grips with that or you don't get anything done. You don't do business. So you're talking to people and you want \$60 million off them, you've got to overlook their shortcomings. "That's a great idea." "He should have a purple hat." "OK, that'll get laughs." And so you get these cretins who are in charge of the money suddenly think they're movie-makers or entertainers.

Andrew Denton: And you become, in this business, you become very good at smiling at somebody who you think is a complete dickhead.

Paul Hogan: Yeah, you have to. Well, most of the time, my best friend and partner John Cornell did that. And he was really good at it. He handled them… He played them off a break. Sometimes it was too hard for me.

Andrew Denton: A movie you didn't have to pitch was the movie that made you an international superstar which was 'Crocodile Dundee'. You were the hottest thing in Hollywood for a while. What is it to be that hot?

Paul Hogan: It's like going to the Olympics and saying, "Can I run in the 100m?" Sort of like, "It's alright, I'll go in my bare feet and jeans." And then you win the gold medal. Er, from there on it's all downhill. Because you can't top that. If your next movie's a bigger success, so what? It's your second one. If you do that with the first one, full of first-time people… It did what no other independent movie had ever done. Not only from Australia, from anywhere else. And so you've given yourself a bar like this. And were I an ambitious, hustling young actor, it would have been terrible for me, and also being typecast and all that — but it wasn't. I'd had my career on television and I had a go at movies and won a gold medal and thought, "This'll do." And in my mind I've been retired since then. I'm not interested in topping that. But everything that happened from then on was a bonus because it was never a burning ambition.

Andrew Denton: You say you're unambitious…

Paul Hogan: That's right.

Andrew Denton: And you refer to yourself as a lazy bugger. Is that true?

Paul Hogan: Deadset.

Andrew Denton: In what way?

Paul Hogan: I think I had the big advantage on most people in this business that I never wanted to be in it. And I wasn't for the first 32 years of my life. I had proper jobs and no money and, um…

Andrew Denton: That's a proper job.

Paul Hogan: Yeah, exactly. And when you have a proper job, getting up real early in the morning — and sometimes two jobs — then you keep wishing, "I wish I had a few bucks more and I wouldn't have to do this…" It's like people win the lottery and they say, "I'll still keep my job and nothing will change, I'll live in the old house." I always think, "Take the money back off him!" If you win the lottery, enjoy it. Get up when you wake up and enjoy your life and think, "Maybe I'll go to work…in July." And that's what I'm doing. I'm going to work in, er, end of July.

Andrew Denton: What do you do when you're not working?

Paul Hogan: This is a skill. It's, um… It's one of those secret things that, when you get to that stage, then you'll understand and you don't tell other people the key to…

Andrew Denton: Oh, tell me, Master, tell Grasshopper. Look, I… Come on…

Paul Hogan: I'm not your guru. I'm not Rene Rivkin.

Andrew Denton: You know, I trust you.

Paul Hogan: By the way… Rene Rivkin who never lies. But, er… He said he was Kerry Packer's surrogate father.

Andrew Denton: Or Jamie's surrogate father.

Paul Hogan: Well, if Kerry heard that, I hope he thumps him.

Andrew Denton: Rene or Jamie?

Paul Hogan: No, Kerry's a good, caring, loving father. Whatever else he might be, that's true.

Andrew Denton: OK.

Paul Hogan: So he annoyed me, then. I thought, "Kick his arse, Kerry."

Andrew Denton: 'Cause you would have seen James when he was growing up.

Paul Hogan: I've known him since he was, like, 13.

Andrew Denton: And that's what you saw of Kerry.

Paul Hogan: That's what I saw… I didn't like Kerry much. I respected him. I didn't have to work for him. I've always been an independent producer, could always say, "Screw you." I had a handshake deal with Channel Nine. Never signed a contract. And he never dudded me an inch in 12 years. And so I respected him, but I didn't like him much until I saw him with his kids at the cricket. And suddenly I liked him.

Andrew Denton: How was he with his kids?

Paul Hogan: A dad.

Andrew Denton: Yeah?

Paul Hogan: Yeah. Just a dad. He wasn't Kerry Packer anymore.

Andrew Denton: We'll never get Kerry on the show so bit by bit by talking to other people about him we'll assemble an interview with him.

Paul Hogan: I don't owe him anything. He doesn't owe me anything. I don't work for him. So, you know, you'll get the sort of… truly independent, not someone who's relying on him for their income or something.

Andrew Denton: So our interview with Eddie McGuire will be a waste of time.

Paul Hogan: You don't talk to someone who works for… I wouldn't work for Kerry. He's terrifying. But I don't work for him and he's a good bloke.

Andrew Denton: Speaking of being a dad, you had three kids by age 21.

Paul Hogan: 22.

Andrew Denton: 22, sorry. Did you have any idea what you were doing as a father?

Paul Hogan: Er, no, I had them young and grew up with them. I just liked them. I still do. I love kids. I'd keep them till they were about seven then try and give them away. Especially when they get to about 15. They get pimples and they get bigger than you. But I just love little kids. The innocence and the openness of them. I just keep having them.

Andrew Denton: Well, you do. You've got another young one….

Paul Hogan: A 4-year-old. He's four already and sort of… It's a bummer. I mean, no, they're… The most adorable human in the world is, like, a two-and-a-half-year-old. They're just so innocent.

Andrew Denton: And they think you know, don't they, what's happening in the world?

Paul Hogan: That's one of the reasons I like little kids around me. They think I'm really smart and I know everything. And I'm really good on the PlayStation, you know.

Andrew Denton: 'Cause you're very fortunate. Not many dads get to be a father over a forty-year period.

Paul Hogan: No, it's… It's sort of, like, the sec… I loved it anyway, even when I was 18. I didn't realise, but I suddenly thought, "I've got these little kids." But when you get older and you're like I am — you don't have to work or stuff — you can spend all day with them. And then you think, "I missed out on so much when the others were little because I had to go to work, basically." I was also trying to claw my own way into the world. Now I'm not, so he gets my undivided attention.

Andrew Denton: What sort of things do you play with Chance?

Paul Hogan: PlayStation's the biggest thing. Chequers we played today. Yeah. Pretty cool. The only thing is that they've got to win all the time.

Andrew Denton: That's a tricky point, because at some point it's your fatherly responsibility to teach him how to lose.

Paul Hogan: I know. I had to do that with the others. At some point you've got to beat them so they know you can get beat.

Andrew Denton: So when's the moment, do you reckon?

Paul Hogan: Oh, when he's 22 or 23. No rush.

Andrew Denton: Are you sure you'll be able to beat him at that stage?

Paul Hogan: I'll be well into the third quarter of my life by then.

Andrew Denton: You said before you were unambitious, but I'm curious, because an interesting quote I read, you said, "My dad dropped dead while he was still waiting for his World Discovery Tour and I wasn't going to wait for that to happen." When you were younger you had a drive, right?

Paul Hogan: Well, I wasn't that young. I was in my 20s and, um — when he died — and it sort of sank in. I thought, "He's worked all his life and he was planning the six months long service leave and the trip round the world." And he fell down dead. It sort of made me more realise that, sort of, like, um, just take each day as it comes.

Andrew Denton: You worked hard, though. 'The Paul Hogan Show', that had a big run on Australian television. Some of our audience would remember it. We've got a clip here from 'The Paul Hogan Show', the biggest-rating thing on Channel Nine during the '70s.

Paul Hogan as reporter on 'Paul Hogan Show': For a report on that injury it's down to the Australian bunkers with Keith Stackpole.

Keith Stackpole: Thank you, Richie. Dennis, how's the finger?

Paul Hogan as Dennis: Not too bad, really, Keith. Just a minor scratch, really. (Holds up severed finger)

Keith Stackpole: Also I hear you're having a few leg problems.

Paul Hogan as Dennis: Yes, Keith. Probably after lunch I'll be coming in off the short run. (Looks down at severed legs)

Paul Hogan: That's historic. That's an interesting piece of history, because that was just part of World Series War. And the people we were playing was Iran, the Ayatollah Khameini. We had all these Ayatollahs running around playing cricket against us. So Iraq was sort of on our side then.

Andrew Denton: How times change.

Paul Hogan: They do.

Andrew Denton: When I watched back some of the Hoges stuff, it really struck me, you're a smart guy, John Cornell's a really smart guy, and here you were, two really smart guys playing at being idiots. Did it surprise you what you could get away with?

Paul Hogan: No, it was funny… I mean, I wasn't that smart and I didn't play that smart a guy. Hoges wasn't smart, just cunning. It was funny that John Cornell, one of the smartest people you'd ever meet and a brilliant businessman, he played an idiot. I mean, Strop was a straight-out idiot. We know how he got that way with a name like Strop.

Andrew Denton: Did that help him be actually better at, er, being a manager? He'd walk into a boardroom and people would think, "He's not that smart"?

Paul Hogan: Yeah, big mistake. (Laughs) Yeah, and you came out with sort of no clothes and no watch… "He was just a fool!" No, no, he was just, um, he was just amazing.

Andrew Denton: Yeah. Does he know that you know this? Have you repaid the debt sufficiently for you?

Paul Hogan: Oh, there's no debt. We're sort of… You'll get one friend in a lifetime like Cornell. He knows that and I know that. And we always will be best of friends.

Andrew Denton: After all you've been through. Often it doesn't end up like that. You've described yourself as a cold person. In what way?

Paul Hogan: Oh, unemotional, probably.

Andrew Denton: Really?!

Paul Hogan: Yeah. That's sort of good in a way.

Andrew Denton: How's that?

Paul Hogan: I don't ever go to one extreme or the other. I used to have a terrible temper when I was younger. But sort of grew out of that and turned into a more mellow person.

Andrew Denton: Where are your passions, though? Everyone has passions. Where do you put your passions?

Paul Hogan: Gee, that's good. I don't have passion, I don't think, no.

Andrew Denton: That's a bit sad, isn't it?

Paul Hogan: I love my wife, I love my kids. I love my work. But I've never been described as a passionate sort of person. I think of Antonio Banderas when I think of passion. Like fiery… I'm mellow, probably.

Andrew Denton: You've made yourself that way, or that's how you're built?

Paul Hogan: I think the comfort of my life's made me like that. I…I was a bit aggro when I didn't know what I was doing. I was 30 and, er, still virtually a labourer with all sorts of tickets — rigger and scaffolder and dogman and crane chaser. Still basically hadn't found a career. I stumbled into this wonderful life that I'm having and, er, without ever trying to. So I do wake up every day and think, "Oh, cool." You said…I did… I'm sitting in the movies, I had Princess Di here, Charles there, and my wife was the other side. She was there with her knees up on the seat. Charlie was there digging me with the elbows. I'm going… (Shrugs) "Don't they know I'm Hoges? I used to work on the Harbour Bridge." I still get blown away, you know, with sometimes big-time stars and what have you. I was in the Beverly Hills Hotel and there was this guy, he was hanging about with a script. And he apparently wanted to approach me and couldn't work himself up. Anyway, I was in the car park getting into my car and he wor
ked up his courage and come up and said, "Excuse me, Paul, I'm a bit nervous about all this. "I saw you by the pool and was going to come and talk to you "but I was too nervous." He said, "I've got this script and I'd like you to look at it." He gives me the script. You know who it was? It was George Harrison, the Beatle.

Andrew Denton: Really? Yeah. He was nervous, he was a nice guy and everything. We had a drink, and he's saying, "I was too nervous." After I thought, "That was one of the Beatles "and he was too nervous to talk to me."

Andrew Denton: That's fantastic.

Paul Hogan: Ah!

Andrew Denton: That's amazing.

Paul Hogan: I know.

Andrew Denton: What was the script? What was the script?

Paul Hogan: It was an IRA thing. It never, ever got made, but he made a lot of films. He had his own company then, Handmade Films, but… that one, it wasn't right for me anyhow. It was a bit too heavy, and it didn't get made.

Andrew Denton: I'm just trying to imagine Hoges in an IRA film.

Paul Hogan: No, it was for me and Michael Caine.

Andrew Denton: Really?

Paul Hogan: Yeah.

Andrew Denton: Two well-known Irishmen.

Paul Hogan: Yeah. No, I was the Irishman, he was the Englishman. Irish accent's not… I couldn't handle that anyway.

Andrew Denton: You said you're not an especially passionate man. When you first, er, got together with Linda, when were you aware, that fabulous moment where you think, "This is happening"?

Paul Hogan: Oh, I resisted that for quite a while. I thought… (Shudders) ..I was not a passionate man. It doesn't mean I'm cold-blooded, but I'm not, um, I'm not volatile. I don't sort of get off, I'm slow to make decisions. I resisted that because of the, er…um, on-set romance thing that happens all the time. These people meet on a set and they get carried away that they think their own char… It's like what they call "shipboard romance". So that took a couple of years.

Andrew Denton: That must…that shows tremendous self-control, because really, if you're falling for somebody, and you're also acting that you're in love with them, it's a free ticket to flirt. Nobody'll think anything of it.

Paul Hogan: Yeah. Exactly. (Laughs) But, you know, you just see too often that people get carried away in those situa…those six-month romances in Hollywood, you know.

Andrew Denton: It's been more than six months.

Paul Hogan: Yeah.

Andrew Denton: It's been a lot more than six months.

Paul Hogan: Oh, yes.

Andrew Denton: It's been a really successful marriage. What has Linda, the professional, had to give up or put away to be married to Paul Hogan?

Paul Hogan: Uh, a little typecast and a little bit, yeah… As much as I sort of became Crocodile Dundee, even then another movie after 'Crocodile Dundee', um, she got stuck with that a little.

Andrew Denton: Yeah?

Paul Hogan: 'Cause she's a far better actress than I am an actor.

Andrew Denton: She's a classically trained actress.

Paul Hogan: Oh, I know. Totally. She was honour student out of Juilliard. I mean, we got her off Broadway. She was in 'Death of a Salesman' with Dustin Hoffman. And that sort of…it probably sort of screwed up her acting career. But I mean, that's…

Andrew Denton: Does she resent that at all?

Paul Hogan: No, well, she loved acting but, sort of, it's acting.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Paul Hogan: It's pretending you're someone else, you know? As I say, I don't…I've got some great friends in Hollywood and actors and what have you, but as a general rule, I don't get on with them because it's a rather childish pursuit. It's not a great career for a grown man. "I pretend I'm someone. And I'm, you know… And I'm really good at pretending." So I have trouble with people that take themselves too seriously. And I don't sort of get on with people who polish their craft and go to the edge of the envelope… and take it a bit too seriously. I say. "Come on, we're in the entertainment business. We're entertainers. 300 years ago, they were doing somersaults with little hats and bells."

(Laughter and applause)

Andrew Denton: Oh, that is good. Linda copped an absolute bucketing from the press in this country when you got together. She was the bimbo, yours was the midlife crisis, she was the other woman, all that stuff. Does she feel comfortable about being back in a country which was so hostile to her?

Paul Hogan: No, no. It's taken a long while to get her into it because she…yeah, was unjustly crucified or blamed or whatever. There's no other woman. It's just sort of like, life is what it is. And your personal life's nobody's business but… Attack me, because I'm the unfaithful one. I'm the adulterer, I'm the sort of philanderer, or whatever other terms you have for it. She's like the innocent bystander. Um…and it's so stupid of anybody to sort of pass judgment on other people's relationships. It's sort of like, "Well, I better not get a divorce because they'll have a bad thing about me in 'TV Week'. So I'll stay unhappily married." I mean, it's just…that was just hard for her because the great thing about us when we were mostly living over there and in Byron Bay was that nobody cared. I mean, they've got Madonna and, you know, all sorts of… Michael Jackson and all sorts of weird people to fry over there. They didn't give a shit about us. We were sort of quiet people living up in Santa Barbara. An
d when we come back here, it's sort of like, "Oh, no, got a photograph taken at the airport." Someone hanging over the back fence taking a shot trying to get you sort of like, you know, bending over…doing something ungraceful. It's a bit hard for her to come to grips with.

Andrew Denton: Is it cool now? Has it backed off? Or are you still that object of malign curiosity?

Paul Hogan: Oh, no, it's probably backed off. It's sort of like…I don't care.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Paul Hogan: On her behalf I do, but I really don't give a shit.

Andrew Denton: Movies — 'Lightning Jack', 'Almost an Angel'. You copped — You'd know them better than I — some absolute bell-ringingly horrible reviews. Now, you said when you were young you were an angry guy, a fighter. Were you able to deal with the anger about that, or was it just acid off a duck's back?

Paul Hogan: I didn't get the anger. The movies weren't that good. Like, "Oh, that didn't quite work out that good." I thought 'Almost an Angel' was a lovely idea. It was a non-mean-spirited comedy and it was sort of nice and it didn't sort of work, though. I thought…you know that before they go to air. "Ohh, this won't set the world on fire." But I didn't care. It was sort of mine that was… I sat up in the middle of the night and wrote it and produced it and saw it come to life. 'Lightning Jack'. That was a moderate success. Um…it was only castigated here 'cause it wasn't a great investment.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Paul Hogan: But it was more successful in the US than some of the Aussie movies like 'Priscilla' and 'Ballroom' and that, that I sort of read out here "Take US by storm". I thought, "Well, that's funny, because my failure did a lot more business than any of them." I had…I also had the miserable failure here of 'Crocodile Dundee II', which did, er, US\$260 million at the box office. I thought, "Please get me another miserable failure like that one."

Andrew Denton: You can tell what…

Paul Hogan: So that sort of… Water off the duck's back.

Andrew Denton: How does the industry regard Paul Hogan now?

Paul Hogan: Oh, as an Australian guy.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.

Paul Hogan: Any script that's got the word 'Australian' in it, even if it's a nun, you know.

Andrew Denton: Can you tell us what's happening in July?

Paul Hogan: Oh, yeah.

Andrew Denton: Is it the 'Flying Nun' movie?

Paul Hogan: No, no, this is a wonderful little Aussie movie.

Andrew Denton: Yeah?

Paul Hogan: It's the best script I've had… I won't say it's the best script I've ever read, because I wrote a lot myself, you know, similar movies. It's the best script I've ever had sent to me. It's charming and funny and…and, er… I'm sort of really looking forward to it. And it is a real Australian movie, but I think one that will travel. And it's me and Michael Caton. I think that's sort of lovely casting too.

Andrew Denton: Yeah. What's your role?

Paul Hogan: We're just two, er… I'm a divorcee, he's a bachelor, and we're two, er — no, he's a widower, I should say — and we're two straight guys in a small country town who have to pretend we're gay. Um… And that's…that's the bones of it, and it just goes from disaster to disaster.

Andrew Denton: Which one of those ends of the emotional spectrum are you going to have to prepare yourself for? Which comes naturally?

Andrew Denton: I've started the preparation already. And I'll show you this. This is an old joke, but you might be familiar with it. This is how you tell a straight guy from a gay guy. I'll stand up for the first bit. Is that alright?

Andrew Denton: Yep.

Paul Hogan: You say to a straight guy, "There's something on the bottom of your shoe," he goes… (Bends leg forwards to check shoe) You say the same to a gay guy, he goes… (Bends leg backwards and pirouettes to check shoe) And that's one.

And the second one is you say, "You've got something under your fingernails," and the straight guy goes, "Huh?" (Bends fingernails forwards with palm facing him) And the gay guy goes… (Holds hand straight up with palm facing out)

Andrew Denton: I shall remember that.

Paul Hogan: The third one — you need a close-up. You say to a straight guy, "Look up," and he goes, "Uh?" (Tilts head up) You say to a gay guy, "Look up," and he goes… (Keeps head still, rolls eyes upward) That's…they're the three tests. So I've been doing the research.

Andrew Denton: You learn s…

Paul Hogan: Yeah, yeah.

Andrew Denton: I'm impressed. Can I say…? Look, I — and don't take this personally — I have found this a really disappointing interview, and you — very disappointing. You've got no neuroses…

Paul Hogan: No.

Andrew Denton: hang-ups, no unhappiness, no dark spots. I mean, really, if I'd known, I'd never have asked you on this show.

Paul Hogan: (Laughs) I'm sorry. Well, I might thump you before I leave or something.

Andrew Denton: (Laughs) Paul, I'm very impressed. It's been a real pleasure. Thank you.

Paul Hogan: It's been a pleasure. I've been a fan for a long time.

Andrew Denton: Thank you. Paul Hogan.


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