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A new direction?

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A new direction?

Sunday Mail, The

14 August 2005

M - Inside Entertainment

Former soap-opera bad girl, film star and mum to two toddlers Justine Clarke tells SALLY BROWNE why she's contemplating the meaning of life

JUSTINE Clarke reckons she just has one of those faces.

"A lot of people think that they remember me from high school or something. I have a familiar face, I think."

It's not surprising, because the Sydney actor, remembered for her role as the feisty Roo on Home and Away, has been on Australian screens since the age of seven.

The same face and cute smile caught the attention of television scouts who came to Clarke's school looking for kids to star in a Vegemite ad.

That ad wasn't to be, but Clarke found herself advertising "everything you could think of from the ages of seven to 12", including Humphrey B. Bear biscuits.

"I tried to find the commercial years and years later and the agency that handled the advertising for Arnott's had no record of it. So it felt like it never happened, but it did."

Now she has landed her first lead film role in the Australian tragicomedy Look Both Ways.

Clarke plays Meryl Lee ("as in, `gently down the stream' "), a quirky young artist who constantly imagines disasters happening around her. If she's on a train, she'll imagine it derailing. If she's in a pool, she'll see sharks gobbling her up.

She happens to witness a real train disaster the day she comes home from her father's funeral, which is how she meets photographer Nick (William McInnes of SeaChange fame), who has just discovered he has cancer.

For a story that deals heavily with the subject of death, it's a sensitive and humorous tale.

"I read as much as I could about grief and loss, and loss of a family member, and trusted that that would be there on the day," Clarke, 33, said by phone.

She must have been doing something right, because the film got the thumbs-up from Australian Psychological Society members who attended an advanced screening in Brisbane.

The production also marks the feature film directorial debut for artist and animator Sarah Watt, who is married to McInnes.

Clarke said she wasn't worried about kissing the director's husband.

"Sarah and William have got a fantastic relationship and they're two of the funniest people I think I've ever met," she said.

"So we just cracked a lot of jokes and I think we shot (the sex scene) at six o'clock in the morning, terribly incongruent."

Since her Home and Away days, Clarke has fronted several bands, appeared in films such as Japanese Story with Toni Collette and Danny Deckchair and joined veterans Jemima and Humpty to host Play School. She still has warm memories of Alf, Ailsa and Summer Bay.

"It was a really big learning curve for me because I'd been acting for a long time before that, since I was a kid, so I had a lot of other projects I'd been involved in, but none that had such a big publicity machine behind it.

"I have a fondness for Roo and a fondness for a lot of characters that started in Home and Away, that kind of made Home and Away in the early days. Playing the nasty character in a TV show is always going to be the most fun."

Juggling school and television was also an interesting teacher.

"There was the academic world and then there was window into a sort of parallel universe, really," Clarke said.

In another parallel universe, Clarke is interrupted by someone who wants to sit on her knee.

Moments later, there's another visitor. "You want to sit on my knee too, do you?" It's her two children to actor Jack Finsterer: Josef, 4, and Nina, 2.

"There's a lot to learn about life on a film set," Clarke continued. "You're surrounded by incredibly dedicated and creative people, and people who are inspired can teach you a lot."

Look Both Ways received both the critics' and audience awards at this year's Brisbane International Film Festival. Clarke said she got something new out of the movie every time she watched it.

What did she learn the last time she saw it?

"That life is fragile and how close life is to death.

"I cry every time -- never at anything that I'm in, but I always cry. I've cried every time at a different spot, because it triggers something within yourself. It allows you to reflect on your own life and the people around you."

The phone is handed over. It seems somebody else wants to be interviewed. Nina says hello. "It's always brief," Clarke said afterwards, like someone well-practised in her role. "I knew it wasn't going to be for long."

Look Both Ways opens on Thursday

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TV & Radio

Sun Herald

21 August 2005

CHANNEL Ten has commissioned an Australian drama, with Surgeons beginning production in Sydney last week.

The eight-part Southern Star production stars Somersault's Sam Worthington, Justine Clarke on the big screen in Look Both Ways and Nicholas Bell.

Shooting will continue for the next four weeks.

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The Age

25 August 2005

Look Both Ways star Justine Clarke and Somersault's Sam Worthington headline the cast of a low-budget eight-part drama shooting in Sydney for the Ten Network.

Surgeon, co-produced by The Secret Life of Us collaborators Judi McCrossin and John Edwards, and written by McCrossin and Fiona Seres, follows the work of a group of surgeons at a Sydney hospital.

The low-budget drama is expected to launch in October.

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  • 4 weeks later...

The Surgeon starts Thursday October 13th at 9.30pm on Channel 10.

Justine Clarke is Eve Agius, the surgeon, a highly skilled woman mostly alone in a mostly male world. Real medical cases filled with twists, turns and surprises test the limits of her skill and knowledge.

The anaesthetists (Sam Worthington, Matt Newton, Christopher Morris), the other surgeons (Nicholas Bell) and the nursing staff (Katie Wall) all confront life, death and the intrusion of fate as everyday reality.

Eight 30 min episodes are on order.

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