Danger Close brings Long Tan heroism to the big screen
Stephen Peacocke thought he'd missed his chance to be a part of the big-screen telling of the Battle of Long Tan.
One of the most savage and decisive Anzac engagements in military history, Long Tan is a remarkable story of how a dispersed company of 108 young and mostly inexperienced Australian and New Zealand soldiers fought for their lives, holding off an overwhelming enemy force of 2500 battle-hardened Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers.
The heroism, mateship and sacrifice made by Delta Company comes to life on the silver screen in director Kriv Stender's new war drama Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan that will have its Australian premiere on the Gold Coast tomorrow night.
"I read a book about it when I was at university over a decade ago and I found out at the time some director was attached to it. I didn't even have an agent, so I wrote a letter saying 'I've been a jackaroo, I've just started acting and I'd love to be in this film'. I put my head shot in the envelope as well, but I never heard anything," he says.
"This time around I thought I'd be too old to be a part of it, but it turned out I was in the perfect range to play Adrian (Roberts). It's a dream come true. As an actor I've always wanted to be part of something that moves an audience and means something in the scheme of things."
Second Lieutenant Roberts was able to give the actor, best known for his roles in Home and Away and Hercules, valuable insights into the battle and his wider experiences during the Vietnam War.
"He's one of the most impressive men I've ever met," Peacocke says. "I didn't know what he'd say, but he told me everything I wanted to know. He had all these maps and documents. Obviously it's a painful memory but he had nothing but respect for everyone - even the enemy. He just told me about it the way it was. As a soldier you dream of being in these big situations but it was pretty terrible. They held together and didn't leave anyone out there.
"Coming from my generation where everything is so easy and you don't have to fight for anything, you take for granted how selfless and courageous that generation had been. We've got it pretty easy."
Filmed in Southeast Queensland and the South Burnett region and centring on the experience of Major Harry Smith, Danger Close also stars Travis Fimmel, Luke Bracey, Richard Roxburgh, Daniel Webber and Nicholas Hamilton.
The film has received rave reviews at early screenings in Sydney and Canberra.
"I was lucky enough to see the film in Canberra with Adrian, which was a real honour," Peacocke says. "It was nerve-racking, to be truthful, to be next to the bloke you're playing as he's watching this film about what was a pretty traumatic experience for everyone involved. I couldn't get over how well the film came together."
Roxburgh, who attended the Sydney Film Festival screening, felt a similar sense of duty.
"It was a beautiful, amazing moment and a lot of the vets were there," he says. "It had quite a special quality to it. A strong part of the engine oil, if you like, that was running that project was the determination to tell the story for their sake.
"That war was such an unpopular war. There were marches on the streets and they were social pariahs in a way, which seems so incredibly unfair.
"So many people died and they were conscripted to go there by our government - respect should be paid."
Danger Close opens on August 8.