Interview: Nick Giannopoulos – Wog Boys Forever

Nick Giannopoulos chats to Glam ahead of the release of his latest feature, Wog Boys Forever.

After breaking box office records in 2000, The Wog Boy became one of the highest grossing Australian films of all time. Nick Giannopoulos’s film quickly joined the likes of The Castle and The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. A sequel was released in 2010, Wog Boy 2: Kings of Mykonos and the third instalment, Wog Boys Forever, hits cinemas on October 6.

After twenty years, did Nick ever expect The Wog Boy to still be going so strong?

“Absolutely not! Who can see twenty years into the future and be right about it? I was, and still am, amazed by its success; I’m very humbled by it. At the time it broke the weekend box office record that one of the Crocodile Dundee films had held.”

I asked Nick about how he approaches his writing and where he draws inspiration for the characters in Wog Boys Forever.

“It’s an interesting one, trying to explain my writing process, because it’s complicated. I’ve always loved observing people, observing social situations and things that I come across myself. My films are pretty much based on the communities that I grew up in and people I grew up with. The main character in the Wog Boys films, Steve Karamitsis, is a combination of a great number of people I have met over the years. But, being a movie and Steve being the hero of the movies, they are mostly positive features. Having said that, one of the main things a hero has to do in a film script is fight his flaws. He’s always presented with five mistakes he’s made in his life and he has to make it better.”

With Wog Boys Forever being the third instalment in the Wog Boys franchise, how does the story follow on from when we last saw the film’s hero, Steve Karamitsis?

Wog Boys Forever is a story that is a right of passage for Steve. In the first Wog Boy film he’s outed as Australia’s biggest dole bludger and ends up tackling the Minister for Employment on national television. That falls under the banner of ‘the full triumphant’, like those comedies where you think the main character is a real idiot, but he ends up on top. The second film is interesting; it’s a little different to the first in that it’s about Steve, the Wog Boy, and his friend Frank going to Mykonos and being duped by his family. They pretty much try to steal his inheritance. The basis of that film is that they are Aussie boys of a Greek background, going to Greece for the first time and finding out how Aussie they are. So it’s all about how we might all be proud wogs, but when we go back to the country our parents came from we quickly realise that, culturally, we are very different. The second film is very much a love song as to why I love being an Aussie. As much as I love my Greek ancestral roots, I am so proud of being an Aussie. Wog Boys Forever, twelve years since we last saw Steve, things haven’t turned out the way he thought they would. Last time we saw Steve he was dancing the Zorba, doing ouzo shots and very much in love with a Greek girl. In this one, we find him all alone, driving a taxi and still single. He hasn’t spoken to his best friend Frank for eight years. As a starting point, it is an upside down world from where we last saw him. The film pretty much follows the trajectory to get back that wog boy mojo he once had. As Frank has told him many times, ‘You can’t teach an old wog new tricks.’ The byline of the film is: ‘Where there’s a wog, there’s always a way.’ So it is one of those types of films. Rite-of-passage films are also a genre that comedy has explored many, many times, as well as midlife crisis films, and that’s what Wog Boys Forever is.”

Australians can’t seem to get enough of ethnic comedy. We only just have to look at the work that Nick does, the work Mary Coustas does with Effie and, of course, Sushi Mango. What is it about ethnic comedy that Australians love?

“It’s very much an Aussie larrikin comedy. Its roots are based in stuff that goes way back in Australian comedic history. What it is, is that more than half this country speaks another language at home. There is a huge segment of our population, being the multicultural country that we are, that is constantly overlooked. There is an image of Australia that the rest of the world sees that isn’t quite the way it is. Australia is a much more culturally diverse, multicultural country than a lot of the world knows about. So a lot of the response comes from the fact these characters are people they recognise and identify with. They are from their own backyards, or their own families and workplaces. It resonates. There is a truthfulness that resonates with the audience. Most importantly, they come to see the stage shows or movies and it’s like a mirror being held up to them. They are seeing themselves on the big screen. I don’t think we have enough of that. A lot of Australians watch American films, and they are probably more familiar with Los Angeles than they are with Australia. I think occasionally when watching an Australian film, whether it be The Wog Boy, The Castle, Muriel’s Wedding or Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert, I find it interesting that they are all essentially comedies. We are a country that enjoys having a laugh at itself and taking the mickey out of itself. It’s very applicable to so many people. I think that is why the comedy we do is so successful. We are not laughing from the outside in, we are laughing from the inside out. We are laughing at and celebrating ourselves.”

So what is next for the wog boy? Will Steve grace our screens again?

“I’m getting asked that question a lot. I think if I do another one, it will be ‘Wogs on The Pension‘ or ‘Wogs in a Retirement Village’. I don’t know. They do take a lot of work and a lot of time to write. We shall see how the fans respond to this film as it’s essentially been them that have kept me going. Thirty-five years in the industry, and it’s my fans that have pushed me to keep going. I did this film for them because everywhere I went I was constantly being asked when I would be doing the next Wog Boy film.”

Wog Boys Forever opens in cinemas on October 6.

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