How Minchin bounced back after axing

 

Tim Minchin has one of the most colourful resumes in Australia's performing arts sector.

He wrote all the songs for Tony-award winning musical Matilda the Musical, once performed at the same show as Mariah Carey, and a casual OAM has also been peppered in there.

But nailing down one career highlight is surprisingly simple. 

Minchin's passion project, Australian TV drama Upright, was hailed by Buffy creator Joss Whedon as his "favourite show since Fleabag".

"Time commitment small. Reward huge," Whedon wrote to this 250,000 followers on Twitter last year.

Minchin, 45, who also helped write the series, said the 8-part series had to be one of his most cherished career highlights.

"As a creator, because I was involved all the way down the line and it worked out, Upright's the thing I've been most involved in that fulfilled my hopes," he told news.com.au.

"Which is really hard when you're making art at a huge scale. There's always something you can't control. (But) Upright, I'm so proud of it and proud of everyone involved. I think it's Upright."

Watch Aussie original Upright now streaming on BINGE. New customers get your 14-day trial & start streaming instantly

Tim Minchin and Milly Alcock in a scene from the TV series Upright. Picture: Matt Nettheim
Tim Minchin and Milly Alcock in a scene from the TV series Upright. Picture: Matt Nettheim

Minchin leads an impressive cast in Upright, which streams on Binge, including up-and-coming teenager Milly Alcock, Heather Mitchell, Daniel Lapaine, Kate Box and Ella Scott Lynch.

He plays Lucky Flynn, a family outcast who learns his mother is dying and embarks on a journey to drive to the other side of Australia to see her, packing nothing but an upright piano.

He crosses paths with rogue teenager Meg (Alcock). Together they forge an unlikely bond, as they go on a wild adventure across the Nullarbor Plain.

As well as being witty, Upright is deeply emotional, which is not what you'd normally expect from Minchin, whose perhaps best known in Australia for being a comedian.

"I only really concentrated on comedy for six years, and then Matilda happened in the middle of all that, but I've always known I wanted to keep acting," he said.

"I've sort of imposed on myself over the years a continuing apprenticeship to make sure I gathered the skills to be a lead in a show one day."

Minchin said he didn't expect Upright to receive the level of praise it has - but always knew it deserved to.

"You just hope people see what you are offering, and that is another factor with being known as one thing and trying to do another, you fear they will judge you in terms of what they expected instead of judging the work on its own terms," he said.

"So we've been incredibly happy people have judged it on its own terms."

RELATED: Tim Minchin slams ScoMo over arts funding

Tim Minchin will perform songs from his album Apart Together with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra as part of the 2021 Perth Festival. Picture: Kevin Patrick Robbins
Tim Minchin will perform songs from his album Apart Together with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra as part of the 2021 Perth Festival. Picture: Kevin Patrick Robbins

It was a huge relief Upright came along when it did. Minchin was, and still is to an extent, reeling from the failure of the Australian-themed animated musical film Larrikins, for DreamWorks in 2017.

Minchin moved with his family to Los Angeles to work on the film, which was also starring Hugh Jackman.

But it was abruptly cancelled after four years of development, with Minchin declaring the decision "unbearable" at the time.

Upon reflection, Minchin says it was for the best, and is now making a similarly inspired Aussie outback film Back to the Outback, alongside Isla Fisher, set for release later this year.

"When Larrikins collapsed I kind of stomped my feet and got sad for a while, which you know, when you lose that much work you're bound to feel a bit battered for a while," he said.

"(Filmmaker) Harry (Cripps) came to me and said 'I know you're sick of animation, I know you said you never wanna do it again, but would you just write us one song'.

"Eventually they had Isla Fisher, Guy Pearce, Eric Bana and Celeste Barber on board, and they hadn't cast the rock star koala named Pretty Boy, and they were looking for a big name, and eventually they just went 'We should just ask Tim to do it'."

Upright is streaming on Binge

 

Originally published as How Minchin bounced back after axing


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