ENTERTAINMENT

'Jasper Jones' Is The Classic Australian Tale We Needed

We chat with lead characters Hugo Weaving and Aaron McGrath ahead of the film's release.

20/02/2017 3:58 PM AEDT | Updated 28/02/2017 10:57 AM AEDT

Interview by Julia Naughton

The most powerful stories are those you didn't know you needed, and as best-selling Australian novel 'Jasper Jones' is adapted to the big screen, we are reminded of the coming-of-age tale and its significance in our own history.

Craig Silvey's timeless story is set in the scorching summer of 1969 in a small town in Western Australia.

Following its release in 2009, it was likened to classics like Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird in the way that it combines a town riddled with secrets and prejudice, and kids who are faced with the stern realities of adulthood.

The story begins with Charlie Bucktin, a 14-year-old aspiring writer who is suddenly woken in the night by local outcast Indigenous boy, Jasper Jones outside his window.

Jasper leads him deep into the forest and shows him something that will change his life forever, sending them both on a chilling journey to solve a mystery that will shock the entire community.

As with Lee's masterpiece, Jasper Jones is a story that stays with you, not for its ability to take you some place new but for the way it helps you make sense of your own world.

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Toni Collette and Dan Wyllie play Charlie's parents.

Director Rachel Perkins said she looked at classics like 'Stand By Me' for inspiration and revealed she needed little more than fine actors to bring the already compelling story to life.

The stellar Australian cast features Levi Miller (Pan) as Charlie Bucktin, Toni Collette as Charlie's mother, Hugo Weaving as the town recluse, 'mad' Jack Lionel and Aaron McGrath as Jasper Jones.

Speaking to The Huffington Post Australia, Weaving explained it was the way the book captured the totality of Australian life that attracted him to the film.

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Hugo Weaving plays 'mad' Jack Lionel.

"My priority is to tell the stories that are our stories, and that reflect our culture and who we are as human beings, that's my absolute focus," Weaving said.

"It's about finding out about your parents, it's about secrets that certain people in the town are withholding from each other, it's about guilt, it's about wanting to say sorry and there are all of the other darker elements like abuse and racism, too."

His character, 'mad' Jack Lionel is reminiscent of Boo Radley and Weaving delivers an intensely moving 10-minute monologue (in one take) alongside Jasper Jones (McGrath).

"I've never felt so comfortable and good about a scene and just working off Hugo and his energy at a professional level, it turned out really well," McGrath told HuffPost Australia.

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Levi Miller as Charlie Bucktin and Angourie Rice as Eliza Wishart.

Weaving adds: "It's quite a beautiful scene.. You realise that these guys have much more in common than they might have otherwise had".

As Charlie experiences first love, he also has to grapple with the grown-up truths of infidelity, racism and death.

And as he learns with new friend Jasper Jones and 'mad' Jack Lionel, the importance of making your own judgement, rather than following prejudiced attitudes.

'Jasper Jones' is in cinemas nationwide from March 2.

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