Halifax fp: articles


Rebecca Gibney of Halifax f.p.… the philosophical star remembers what peace there may be in silence—and the fact that there's always going to be another blonde around the corner.

Lucky star's lucky stars

It was written on the dunny door: you will grow up and marry someone from the same latitude–almost. Rebecca Gibney tells Allison White she's more than happy with how her life's turning out.

STRANGE things happen when Rebecca Gibney is around.

The stars align and cosmic rays just seem to float upon the New Zealand-born actress.

After a string of bizarre coincidences this year, part of Gibney remains in the clouds while her feet never left the ground.

The pinnacle of her year was marrying the man of her dreams, production designer Richard Bell, in the earthy surrounds of the Daintree rainforest.

The newlyweds met by chance on the set of Dogwoman last year, but at that stage had no idea they grew up in the same country town in New Zealand.

They later discovered they had lived barely 500mapart and even came to Australia in the same year–1984.

Not only that, but Gibney says they share a similar philosophy on life, due in part to their bathroom reading material.

"For some reason we both grew up with Desiderata on the back of the toilet door," Gibney says.

"If you've ever read it, it goes along the lines of: 'go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence' and it's a beautiful piece of literature that talks about if you compare yourself with others you will become vain and bitter for always there will be someone greater than yourself. And I literally grew up memorising this thing. It was like I was brainwashed."

That could help explain her calm demeanour despite the extraordinarily good paths her life keeps taking.

This year she is back on the small screen in another three instalments of Halifax f.p.

The upcoming telemovie Playing God follows the successful Scorpion's Kiss episode, which has already aired.

And now for another coincidence that Gibney finds herself a part of: the third instalment, as yet un-named, will be the 21st Halifax f.p. telemovie for production powerhouse Beyond Simpson Le Mesurier who have worked together for 21 years.

Roger Simpson says that is not the only coincidence he and production partner Roger Le Mesurier share.

They are not only colleagues but friends as well–a feat they are very proud of, considering they have known each other for 30 years. "It's one of those very fortunate flukes in life, I suppose," Simpson says.

"It is," Le Mesurier agrees. "But it's probably one of those things that is really needed in producing, too. It's a hard road and without somebody there to share it with it's very difficult."

While they may put their friendship down to coincidence, their success has come through plain hard work.

Since teaming up in 1980, the duo have won five Logies, eight AFI Awards, 14 Awgies, nine Australian Cinematographers' Society Awards, two Henry Lawsons and a couple of New Zealand Best Drama Awards.

Their Midas touch began with the film Squizzy Taylor and extended to The Nostradamus Kid starring Noah Taylor and Miranda Otto, the mini-series Sword of Honour and the epic depiction of the Snowy Mountains Hydro Electric Scheme for the Nine Network, Snowy.

More recent series have included Stingers and Good Guys, Bad Guys.

However, in a certain sense they have become victims of their own success.

"I suppose one of the changes that's taken place is in the early days we were very much one project at a time and very much hands-on," Le Mesurier says.

"Whereas as we've developed we now have two, three or four projects at some stage of production and we've had to delegate some of our roles."

To maintain quality control, the "two Rogers" have surrounded themselves with talented colleagues.

"It's a very large group," Simpson says of the extended production family.

"We have a recurring group of directors and writers who we've tended to work with over the years on a freelance basis."

Given they have returned to work with Gibney each year for seven years, it is no secret she is one of their favourites.

'In America being nice probably doesn't get you anywhere, but in Australia it gets you a long way'

Gibney holds the two Rogers in high esteem as well. "They're a force to be reckoned with those two," Gibney says.

"The other thing is that they're two of the nicest people you could possibly meet. They're really lovely men as well as very talented producers."

Gibney believes when it comes to filmmaking being nice can open a lot of doors.

"In America (being nice) probably doesn't get you anywhere, but in Australia it gets you a long way," she says.

"It's all about attitude I think. You can be the best actor or the best producer in the world, but if you're an arsehole–excuse my French–you're not going to go very far because people won't put up with it.

"The industry's very small in Australia. I've seen so many actors come and go because of their attitude. They get a little bit of fame and they start believing in their own publicity.

"The next minute they become difficult on set, they're late or whatever and in a couple of years they're gone.

"Producers won't put up with it and I think it's probably the same with the producer's side of things. If you are a decent and kind person you're going to get crews going the extra mile for you."

That may have been the case for Halifax f.p. but after seven years there might not be enough left in the tank to push it even another half-mile.

Gibney says she feels after 21 telemovies it is time for a change.

They are currently examining the possibility that Halifax f.p. may be reborn as a weekly television series next year.

But that would require a quicker turnaround and Gibney is worried that may jeopardise the quality of production.

"If we can't work out the right amount of time and all the right factors to make it go to a weekly series I'd be very happy to finish on this note and say, 'well we've had a great series, the show maintained it standard over that time, we never let it slip, let's go out on a high'," Gibney says.

She quickly adds that she said last year would be her final appearance as forensic psychiatrist Jane Halifax, but she returned.

Whatever happens, Gibney seems confident the stars will stay aligned in her favour. On the personal front, the actress says she is happily married, has a great family and terrific friends and a beautiful home.

Professionally, her staying power is as strong as ever, having realised that age closes some doors but opens others.

"There's always going to be another blonde around the corner to take my place," Gibney laughs. "I'm quite happy that I'm getting older. The great thing about getting older in the industry is that I've seen them come and go and I've seen myself change.

"I was probably a little bit of an upstart in my early 20s. I didn't have a diva attitude but I made mistakes like we all do and now I'm comfortable in my own skin and I'm really happy and I'm always grateful for the jobs that come along."

Rest assured, in Gibney's perfectly balanced universe those jobs will come.

• Halifax f.p. Playing God, Nine, Sunday November 25, 8.30pm

By Allison White
November 21, 2001
The Courier Mail