That’s what friends are for

Rachel Fuller

Writer and director of the acclaimed Australian film Animal Kingdom, David Michôd, and his good friend the poet and novelist Luke Davies have more than a few things in common. They shared an apartment in Los Angeles – and a heroin-riddled past.

Every seat was taken at the Richard Wherrett Studio at Sydney Theatre Company on Sunday for the event Poetry, Fiction, Screen and Beyond. It was a glimpse into the relationship between the two men, a critical compare-and-contrast exercise.

Michôd introduced Davies as the epitome of order and control, while he was more at home with chaos.

David Michod; picture by Mark Rogers

David Michod; picture by Mark Rogers

Davies, the child of a journalist, was reading John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row at 13. Michôd came from a non-literary family but woke up one day thinking it might be cool to be a bohemian. Both grew up in Sydney as anxious teens. Michôd suffered from depression at 15 and Davies was an obsessive high school student who spent his weekends devouring poetry and American football statistics in the State Library.

They separately found themselves in Melbourne during the 1980s – unaware of the other. Both knew the grit and violence of the city then, which set the scene for Animal Kingdom and Davies’ 1997 debut novel, Candy.

Both men were junkies. Long before they crossed paths in real life Michôd was deep in his own habit when he came across Candy, Davies’ account of addiction.

“It took a couple of years but Candy planted the seeds to get clean,” said Michôd. He also read William S. Burrough’s semi-autobiographical Junkie, set in New York in the 1950s, but that book did not touch him like Candy, which laid bare the grim life of drug dependence.

“When I eventually met Luke, he might as well have been a rock star. I was in awe. But he really took me under his wing, inviting me to dinner parties and things,” Michôd said.

Luke Davies; picture by Carla Choy

Luke Davies; picture by Carla Choy

As Michôd only touched down in Sydney yesterday the conversation was two old friends catching up, but with an inspiring breadth, covering the creative process, obsession, addiction, ambition, America and trust.

Michôd’s next film, The Rover, a futuristic Western set in the Australian desert, with Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson will be released later this year.

Four Plots for Magnets, Davis’ first anthology of poems originally published when he was 21, was launched as part of the Sydney Writers’ Festival on Sunday.