What's the first thing you expect to be asked about these days?
``Are you still working? We never see you on television any more." It
happened when I was on the plane yesterday. It gives me the shits. It's like,
``Yeah yeah yeah. What do you think? There are great television comedies just
coming out of the air?" But of course you're polite and you explain that you're
in the theatre. And they get this look on their face that says, ``Oh so you're
not working then". It's sort of like you feel a bit deflated because you might
have got a great review from a stage play, and they think you're in retirement.
I guess they don't understand. As you get older, you get more picky about what
you do. I get very unhappy doing something I don't like. It just destroys me. I
hate it. If you want to keep whatever power you have, then you have to get picky
about what you do. I've come to realise that. Sometimes, though, it can get
very lean financially.
Does the financial side of life worry you?
It worries me a bit. Just in the last couple of years. But I'm kind of
working on that. I'm OK, really. I was very wise when I was younger. I made sure
I looked after myself. Good investments, good super.
You're a model self-funded not-yet-retiree.
I am actually. (Fellow actor/director) Graeme Blundell said to me, ``The
smartest thing you ever did was staying married to the one woman". It doesn't
help if you've had three wives.
When I asked about the first thing you expect to be asked, I meant in
Oh. I don't know. I wouldn't know. I guess, I know: it's inevitable that
every interviewer will ask me about depression and anxiety disorders.
Once you put yourself out there with your frailty (McDonald suffers an
anxiety disorder, which lay at the heart of the very public depression and
breakdown some years ago), does it tend to be mentioned every time you're in the
Yeah, every time. Every time.
How does that feel?
Sometimes I get ... look, human beings are so complex. Sometimes I think I
wish they wouldn't go on about it. But then there's such a huge proportion of
society that has to deal with anxiety disorders. So there's a part of me that
does want to talk about it. You want people to be more aware, less judging. It's
not so much crusading; you feel you've got some sort of responsibility in a
When you did the interview with 60 minutes about your breakdown, it seemed
the interviewer Charles Woolley was looking at you as if you were very fragile.
That's because I was very fragile. I wasn't all right then. I was still
Wasn't it a bit risky doing the interview, putting yourself out there like
Yeah, but I'm a sucker. They said, ``We'll take him fishing". I thought that
would be nice. They were willing to go to New Zealand ... take me anywhere I
wanted. (Instead they went to a remote river spot in the NSW Blue Mountains,
flying in by helicopter.) I wasn't really up to it. I was recuperating, and I
was on medication. It was a while before I did the anxiety course. At that there
was so much concentration on the depression ... because it's the depression
that's gonna make you top yourself. Anyway, I should have another breakdown so
60 Minutes can take me to New Zealand.
If not anxiety and depression, what would you want to talk of?
I'd rather talk about Stones In His Pockets (his first play as director).
It's much easier talking about your work, what you're doing.
Then tell us about it.
It's a two-hander. They're two extras on a film being made in Ireland, just
dogsbodies in the background. The whole film production is seen through their
eyes. You see them commenting on what's happening and then they become what's
happening. They play the beautiful film star, the beautiful film star's
bodyguard. The rapport between them now, the subtlety of the performance, is
fantastic. They're so good. They're so good.
Do you have a director's chair you keep in the boot of your car?
No. No I do not. In fact, the first time I directed, it was hard keeping me
in the chair because I kept wanting to get up on the stage.
Will we see a McDonald stamp on the production?
Hopefully, because it will be very funny. I kind of hope not. What I wanted
was for it to look as if the guys got up there and did it themselves. One
doesn't want any stamp.
You mentioned people thinking you gone from the landscape because you're not
on the telly. What does it say about us?
Television is such a powerful medium, and let's face it, I was on it for 11
years in Mother and Son, which has been over for six years. I've done it. I
don't want to do sketch comedy again. It's not where my head is at any more. I
don't want to do Norman any more. I've sort of gone on to other areas.
In the end, did the public breakdown and anxiety disorder profile help kill
off Norman Gunston?
I had it twice today. Two young men calling out ``hey, Norman". That's from
pay TV. They wouldn't know about that other side.
When did you start using an electric shaver?
I don't use an electric shaver. I don't believe in them. I like that male
thing of soaping up your face. It's the closest thing we have to facials without
Do you ever cut yourself?
Do you ever think, ``Damn! I'm Garry McDonald"?
Like: ``Hey, I'm somebody"? Very rarely, no. Well ... I went for an audition
today and they were very pleasant to me and I thought, ``Ah, right. I'm Garry
Stone in His Pockets is at the Fairfax, Victorian Arts Centre, for the MTC
until December 15. Bookings: 136 166.