Just a few years ago, after nearly two decades with You Am I, Tim Rogers had all but conceded that it was time to get a real job. “I was thinking, ‘oh well, that was fun for 18 or 19 years,’ says Rogers, over the phone from his living room in St Kilda. “But then this flurry of opportunities came up and I thought, ‘oh shit, this bluff is going to work for another little while.’”
The bluff, as it turned out, came in an unusual form. Often typecast as a leather-bound rock star, Rogers has since made a name for himself on the screen and stage, first as ‘The Entertainer’ in the Michael Kantor directed production of Woyzeck in 2009, and early this year in Kantor’s feature film debut, The Boy Castaways.
Filmed at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Adelaide, Rogers stars alongside Megan Washington and Paul Capsis in The Boy Castaways. His character is a man adrift, thrown into a burlesque playhouse to live out his fantasies. It’s a genre-defying debut from Kantor, and one that blurs the lines between traditional theatre conventions and modern cinematography.
Rogers says that while the role wasn’t exactly a stretch, The Boy Castaways has contributed much to his regeneration as an artist. “It was daunting, but in a way, it just felt natural,” he says. “If something came up where I was to play the gay leading man, that would be far more interesting to me because I’ve been playing crazy, drug taking alcoholics – which isn’t a hell of a gigantic stretch for me.”
Rogers is, by account of every major newspaper and music magazine in Australia, a languid and mysterious character, as documented by one Melbourne reporter in 2004, who was worried that Rogers might rise from his chair in a West Melbourne pub and slug a man at the bar next to him mid interview - because he was mouthing the words to one of You Am I’s most famous songs in a sarcastic manner.
Later that year, too, The Age reported that Rogers had stormed off stage mid-set at The Falls Festival in Tasmania, “extremely intoxicated,” pushing one of his band mates on the way off. A few days later, Rogers responded to angry fans on the band’s website. “I've got some problems with intoxicants that I haven't dealt with in a long time and it's come back and bit me," he said.
It’s these stories that have come to define the man, publicly at least, because Australians – and in particular, Melburnians – are fixated on Rogers’ proclivity to wind up in trouble. In fact, many of Rogers’ onstage antics have become folklore, often overshadowing what has been an incredibly diverse career. As the face and front man of You Am I, Rogers won 10 ARIA Awards, toured internationally with The Who, Oasis and The Rolling Stones, and had two albums in Triple J’s Hottest 100 Albums of All Time. As a solo performer, he released a further five studio albums with different backing bands, winning the ARIA for ‘Best Male Artist’ on the back of his 1999 album, What Rhymes With Cars and Girls.
Now comfortably into middle age, Rogers has reinvented himself again. This year he hosted a six-part television series for Foxtel entertainment channel, STVDIO, called Studio at the Memo, a burlesque cabaret show that featured performers like Tex Perkins, Martha Wainwright and The Bamboos’ frontman, Lance Ferguson.
Speaking on the move into middle age, Rogers says he’s much more inclined to work hard. “You can’t just think, ‘alright I can play four and a half chords, and look good in a certain type of trousers,’” he says. That’s not going to be interesting for anyone.”
The Boy Castaways will premiere at The Forum on Tuesday 15 October, followed by Tim Rogers, Megan Washington and Paul Capsis performing Songs of Wreck and Ruin, songs from the film’s soundtrack. It will also screen 28–29 November and 3 December at Cinema Nova and 30 November-1 December at George Cinema.
For tickets, click here.