One of the perks of working a job such as mine is that, every once in awhile, you get to speak with a legit legend, or at least someone whose work has been really important to you over the years. For me, such a man is Paul Hogan. I vividly remember seeing CROCODILE DUNDEE as a kid on VHS, and I watched it and the first sequel, Crocodile Dundee 2, over and over again. I loved Hogan, so when I heard he was making the press rounds for his new movie, The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee, which is a meta-fictional satire starring Hogan as a fictionalized version of himself caught up in a scandal, I had to talk to him! So here it is – my chat with the great Paul Hogan!
Before we get started, I was like 5 years old when Crocodile Dundee came out on video, and honestly, I thought it was the greatest movie ever…
PH: You were a very smart kid!
Yeah, and I thought you were the coolest. I used to affect this kind of Australian accent and say “g’day mate” to people…
I’m sure you’ve had a lot of people come up to you over the years and lose it…
PH: Yeah, the number of people that have come up to me and said “that’s not a knife” is in the thousands.
Do you ever get sick of it?
PH: Well, it’s funny because anytime anyone says it they act like it’s the first time anyone’s said it to me.
Well, that’s what’s interesting about the movie. You’re playing a fictionalized version of yourself and the way I presume you’d react to people. How close are you to the Hogan as portrayed in the movie?
PH: Well, we share the same attitude to life and a sense of humor. But otherwise, he’s a fictitious character. I just made him up. He’s a composite.
There’s a great scene in the movie where there trying to pitch you a Crocodile Dundee 3 with Will Smith as your son. How often do you get pitches for sequels or reboots?
PH: Well, it faded out for a while but then we did the super bowl ad for tourism, and out of the woodwork they came with all sorts of…some not so bad and some real dingbat ideas to make another one. It’s funny – the Will Smith thing – people that weren’t paying attention thought that was a racist thing (NOTE – in the film execs say he’s racist for thinking Smith as his son is a bad idea). They’re ignoring the fact that Mick’s wife Sue, who would be sixty now, who have supposed to have been able to give birth to a fifty-three-year-old African American! I love Will Smith but it wouldn’t work.
So what is your reaction to stuff like that – cancel culture. Do you think people are a little ridiculously sensitive in some ways?
PH: Well, not all of them. There are some attitudes that have been around forever and shouldn’t be. But, I never do anything with bad intentions. The object is to make people laugh and forget their troubles. You don’t want anyone crying in the back of the audience because you said something they consider hurtful. A lot of standup comics have told me it’s getting so much harder now when what you say is a joke can hurt somebody and they all turn on you. This movie’s a bit about that too. It should be called “No Good Deed Goes Unpunished”.
Well, what I always liked about the character (Mick Dundee) is that in some ways there may be certain things that are dated but there was never any malice to Crocodile Dundee. He was a good person who never meant any harm. That was the intention all along wasn’t it?
PH: That was the thing – to make a hero character who didn’t kill people. He didn’t have any superpowers other than he had a good sense of humor. It’s like the famous knife scene. In a lot of movies, he would have pulled the knife out and stabbed a few people, but he didn’t. He dismissed the situation with humor. That was the intention.
He had an amazing punch though – it always had this amazing foley sound to it. I thought that was the coolest.
PH: Well, he only punched people who deserved it.
And he was always a fish out of water…
Yup…that’s why it’s hard to make another one. You can’t keep being a fish out of water.
Well, as much as I like the first one I like the second one too – where they do the reverse thing. They have the gangsters chase him in the Outback. I always thought that was a cool idea. I probably liked two just as much I did the first.
PH: So did I – I wrote ‘em both. It’s the third one that sort of disappeared. We make reference to that in this movie.
Oh yeah – that was funny when the guy said “how about Crocodile Dundee in Los Angeles?”
PH: (Laughs) Yeah – I already made it!
But I loved all of your movies growing up. Almost An Angel, Lightning Jack. Do you ever have anyone mention those to you?
PH: They worked in isolated places. Lightning Jack worked here and there – they got it – that it was a comedy western. Almost An Angel only worked in Spain and Italy. I think a lot of people thought it might be some sort of religious film – it wasn’t. But I have no shame in those – I wrote them and I’m quite proud of them.
As well you should be!
PH: Everything I did after Croc 1 was destined to be called a flop.
Is that the curse though? Of having something so successful – the biggest independent movie of all time. It wasn’t just successful – it was WILDLY successful.
PH: Exactly. It was a hit in Chile, Ethiopia, Norway – all around the world. And we never expected that. Of course, if you do that it’s like going to the Olympics, rolling up your jeans and saying “can I have a run in 100” and winning the gold medal. It’s so unlikely a success that it means that whatever you do next will be a disappointment.
Well, 2 beat Rambo III at the box office. It was a huge hit.
PH: It was – but it wasn’t as big as the first one and it wasn’t a forty-seven-year-old’s first go at making a movie so it was doomed to be a flop – but it wasn’t it was a huge success.
What was it like re-teaming with Reginald VelJohnson? Had you seen him in recent years?
PH: Only once or twice – I hadn’t seen him in a long time. It was lovely seeing him again.
That was an iconic scene in the original when you guys beat up the pimps.
PH: Yeah, he came to my rescue!
Would you bring Crocodile Dundee back in a legit sequel?
PH: Well, I always think of him as a real person so I’m curious as to how he ended up, but now I think of him in a retirement village going around on a walker. I don’t think it would sort of work.
I also loved the first movie the bit with the kangaroo poachers. That made a big impression on me – that you’re protecting the animals. I think those movies did impart a lot of lessons for me that I carry with me to this day.
PH: Well, that’s great. The key to him was that he was sort of an ordinary guy. He had a few extra gifts but he looked at everything with an open heart and like in that famous knife scene that’s been seen a million times everywhere – he used humor to distract the kids. He didn’t stab anybody.
He would have gone out for a beer with them afterward
Thanks for talking to me – and I’m sincere when I say those movies have stuck with me through my life.
PH: That’s great – they did more than I could hope for. I think that’s why I’m reluctant to do another one. Even the third one – people kinda stayed away so we make fun of that in this movie. Dean Murphy wrote it – he’s a friend of mine and a collaborator. He’s seen some of the odd situations that I’ve been in and exaggerated them a bit.
No one ever wanted you to wrestle some snakes on a walk? “Can you deal with this Paul?”
PH: Well, the first incident in the movie, where the people gather around and want him to handle this snake, is based on a real incident. Walking through Franklin County hiking, two ladies come rushing around the bend and one of them looked at me and said “thank God it’s you – he’s Crocodile Dundee – he’ll fix it!” I said, what am I going to fix? She said, just around the bend we saw the biggest rattlesnake I’ve ever seen – you can handle it. I didn’t handle it! Fortunately, when I got around the bend it had gone.
Whenever I see a dog I do the thing you do with the fingers in the first movie – but it doesn’t always work.
PH: No! I wouldn’t advise it (laughs).
The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee is now avialble on VOD. You can rent it here!