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» Enough Rope with Andrew Denton ( 2003 )

Andrew Denton: My first guest tonight is one of Australia's most beloved actresses. And yet, tonight, she plays her most difficult role — that of herself. Please welcome Rebecca Gibney.

Andrew Denton: Welcome.
Rebecca Gibney: (Sighs nervously) Hello.
Andrew Denton: Now…oooh.
Rebecca Gibney: Sorry.
Andrew Denton: Do you need to…? This is a…
Rebecca Gibney: I'm just breathing.

Andrew Denton: OK, breathe in.
Rebecca Gibney: Oooh, there's a lot of people here, isn't there?
Andrew Denton: There are a lot of people and they're all very happy to see you…
Rebecca Gibney: Oh, good. OK.
Andrew Denton: ..except for one person who's a bit of a psychotic but we won't talk about…
Rebecca Gibney: (Laughs)

Andrew Denton: Now, are you OK?
Rebecca Gibney: Yes, I'm fine.
Andrew Denton: Do we need to do acting breathing exercises?
Rebecca Gibney: No, I'm OK. If my eyes start to glaze over and my head spins around, then
Andrew Denton: Mm-hm. I'll know you're auditioning for 'The Exorcist'. That'd be tremendous.
Rebecca Gibney: (Laughs)

Andrew Denton: Havelock North…
Rebecca Gibney: Havelock North! Yes.
Andrew Denton: New Zealand, where you grew up. What was that town like?
Rebecca Gibney: It was very small. Well, actually, I was in Hastings. My husband was from Havelock North, which is quite weird. I was born in Levin and I moved to Hastings. Very small country town. They do great feijoa ice-cream.
Andrew Denton: What ice-cream?
Rebecca Gibney: Feijoa.

Andrew Denton: What's that?
Rebecca Gibney: (In New Zealand accent) It's a really nice…it's a bit of a fruit. It's really tasty. (Laughs) Just thought I'd slip back into the accent there.
Andrew Denton: You've got…where did that accent go? How did you bury it?
Rebecca Gibney: I actually had a voice coach when I first got here in 1985.
Andrew Denton: To learn Australian?
Rebecca Gibney: Yeah. 'Cause they didn't like it. I think it's a bit sexy, really, but… No, well, I couldn't play an Australian with a New Zealand accent.

Andrew Denton: So how do they teach you Australian?
Rebecca Gibney: "When you say fush they say fish."
Andrew Denton: It's as simple as that?
Rebecca Gibney: It's as simple as that.
Andrew Denton: Actually, when you were a kid you moved house many, many times.
Rebecca Gibney: Many, many, many times.

Andrew Denton: How many, roughly?
Rebecca Gibney: Oh, blimey. About 40.
Andrew Denton: Wow.
Rebecca Gibney: Yeah.
Andrew Denton: That's a lot? How come?
Rebecca Gibney: Oh, I had a bit of an interesting upbringing. Um, my father was an alcoholic and so didn't hold down many jobs. So we were constantly renting places and on the move. And he used to smash up the furniture and smash up the houses a bit, so we'd have to move.

Andrew Denton: What is it to live with an alcoholic parent?
Rebecca Gibney: Funnily enough, I actually thought it was normal. I mean, we sort of… 'Once Were Warriors' was kind of like our family and it's quite common for a lot of New Zealand families and, I'm sure, for a lot of Australian families. So I…I was also a bit younger than my brothers and sisters — there's about five years between me and my nearest sister — so I kind of…I think I got through it with a lot of humour. Also, my mother shielded us a lot from it. So I remember her putting us to bed and I, quite often, would hear Dad come home but she'd always shut all the doors leading to the kitchen or the lounge room. So you'd hear the yelling and the shouting and the slapping but you'd never actually see it. Or sometimes she'd wake us up in the middle of the night and bundle us into the car and we'd drive around the block and we'd sleep outside. But she made it an adventure. And she never blamed him for it, which was kind of… I didn't grow up hating him, as such. I just grew up going, "Why is he so different?"
Andrew Denton: When you said, "She made it an adventure," what was this? Like a night-time drive?
Rebecca Gibney: Yeah, yeah.
Andrew Denton: Really?
Rebecca Gibney: Yeah, even if it was bad and we were crying, she'd somehow always manage to kind of turn it into something other than what it was. She's an extraordinary woman. I mean, she, herself, was a victim of incest from the age of two till she was about 15 and then she married my father. And when he was about 21, I think, he started drinking heavily and she put up with that for about 20 years, so, um…

Andrew Denton: When he hit her, which, I gather, was fairly regularly…
Rebecca Gibney: Yeah.
Andrew Denton: ..did you not notice that she'd been hit?
Rebecca Gibney: Um, yes. By the time I was old enough by the time I was about 9 or 10, Dad had actually had a stroke and wasn't as violent anymore, um, so I didn't really get to see it as much… When I was older and we talked about it, she said that, on the odd occasion, he beat her so badly she had bruises for six months on her legs. So, um, it was pretty bad. And the other thing about when you're a child, I think, you block stuff out. You don't…you know, you don't remember stuff. Um, I've had…since then, I've had counselling and stuff has come back to me but, um…
Andrew Denton: When you were 17 you spent a year away from work and you nursed your father until he died. What was that time like?
Rebecca Gibney: Yeah, well, I'd actually…I'd…being the rebellious teenager and also because, I think, of my upbringing, I dropped out of school at 15 and just thought, "Bugger this. No-one cares!" It was that teenage angst thing. And I went and worked at a wholesale jewellers. And I was about 16 and a half when Dad lost a leg and couldn't get around at all. And so Mum said could I spend some time looking after him? So I spent about six months looking after him, getting him his lunch. And I actually got to know him because he'd actually stopped drinking quite a lot at that stage. So we'd started to have conversations and I was slowly starting to get to know the person. And then he died suddenly. And he was only 51. So, um, I never really got to know him, which was a shame.

Andrew Denton: Why was he having legs taken off?
Rebecca Gibney: I come from a long line of limbless relatives. I can say that 'cause they're my relatives. (Laughs) Um, substance abuse. Alcohol and cigarettes. He had a disease called polycythemia. And my nanna actually lost both her legs, my uncle lost a leg and Dad lost one leg and was due to lose his other leg.
Andrew Denton: Must be a bloody hard family to buy presents for.
Rebecca Gibney: (Laughs) Oh, my nanna just said just don't ask her to dance, that's all. Um, but, no, it's a blood-clotting disease purely caused through drinking and smoking.
Andrew Denton: Was a regular family game Stump the Gibneys?
Rebecca Gibney: (Laughs uproariously)

Andrew Denton: No, I guess not…
Rebecca Gibney: I don't know what to say to that.
Andrew Denton: Just going back, your mum sounds extraordinary. Was she…? You said she never blamed your dad. Was she scarred by this in any way?
Rebecca Gibney: I'm sure she was. She has an enormous faith so I think that got her through it. Um, yeah, she… Look, I think it scarred all of us. I mean, I certainly have had my fair share of, you know, interesting times growing up — relationship problems, you know, things in my 20s that I've had, you know, counselling with. But she…she's extraordinary. She's, like, 65 now and she's very loving and she's actually very happy for me to talk about it. I haven't talked about it in depth before but because I want to start doing some work with victims of domestic violence, um, she's quite happy for me to talk about it now.
Andrew Denton: You have started at a Salvation Army refuge.
Rebecca Gibney: Yes, yes. In Melbourne. Basically, I was watching the 'What Women Want' forum last year with Claudia Karvan and Amanda Keller and a few other women and I just…and they got up and they talked about stuff so passionately. And I thought, "I need to… I want to do something" and "What can I do? What can I contribute?" And I thought, well, I've got this background and this history and if it's OK with my mum, I'd like to share it because maybe it'll help other people. Domestic violence is on the increase. It was even in the paper the other day that one in five women have been victims of domestic violence over the age of 18. And it's a really serious issue and I don't think a lot of people talk about it. And so I thought, "Well, bugger it. I'm going to come out and say, 'Look, you can get through it. 'There is help. There are people to support you through it.'"

Andrew Denton: Has having a…a father who had an abusive relationship with your mother, has that affected your relationship with men?
Rebecca Gibney: Yes.
Andrew Denton: Your ability to relate?
Rebecca Gibney: It did, um, all through my 20s, and I think I hurt people because of it. I lashed out a lot and, er… (Sighs) Um, and as I say, I had a bit of an emotional collapse about seven or eight years ago and sought therapy and I was in therapy for a few years. Now I recognise patterns when they happen and I go, "OK. So I'm reacting the same way. I'm not going to do that anymore."
Andrew Denton: What's a pattern?
Rebecca Gibney: Jealousy. I had a terribly jealous streak. 'Cause I'm also half-Irish. I'm an Irish New Zealander — it's a bad, bad streak. So I used to get terribly jealous.

Andrew Denton: Yeah.
Rebecca Gibney: And very insecure, I think, because of the lack of a father-figure growing up. So I was very insecure, so I would lash out, particularly if I thought a woman was trying to, you know, chase my man. Yeah. I wouldn't have any qualms about following her into the bathroom and beating her up! (Laughs) It's terrible, really.
Andrew Denton: Yeah. No, no… I would have paid to see that. No, that is wrong.
Rebecca Gibney: It is wrong.
Andrew Denton: That is wrong, what I just said. That is completely wrong. Er, so jealousy. What else was the pattern?
Rebecca Gibney: Ohhhh. That's a hard question. Um, just the way I treated people. I think I did some terrible things.

Andrew Denton: And you're confident you're through that?
Rebecca Gibney: Um, I'm certainly confident that I recognise patterns when they emerge and I have the tools to change it. It's a bit like panic attacks. I mean, I've suffered panic attacks ever since I was about 14, and now I'm sort of… I'm still getting through them but I have the tools to deal with them when they hit.
Andrew Denton: As you said before we came on…
Rebecca Gibney: Might run out.
Andrew Denton: Yeah!
Rebecca Gibney: Bring me a bucket.

Andrew Denton: You said before, "I might have a panic attack."
Rebecca Gibney: Yeah.
Andrew Denton: What could bring on a panic attack?
Rebecca Gibney: This show.
Andrew Denton: It's just the scrutiny of a few million Australians and my relentless, merciless line of questioning.
Rebecca Gibney: Oh, I know. This… Putting yourself in… I think the other thing for me initially with panic attacks was because you're putting yourself out there to be judged. So beforehand you stand back there going, "Oh, no. What am I gonna say? What am I gonna say?" and it creates this awful tension.

Andrew Denton: But isn't being yourself enough? Isn't that what we want of other people?
Rebecca Gibney: Well, yeah, when you're very secure and comfortable in yourself but when you've got, you know, paranoias and insecurities and, you know, all that, it makes it a bit difficult.
Andrew Denton: You must be a tough cookie, because you've made a really successful career as an actress and yet — is this true — you've never had a lesson?
Rebecca Gibney: Never.
Andrew Denton: Really?
Rebecca Gibney: Mmm.

Andrew Denton: So is acting overrated — the whole thing overrated?
Rebecca Gibney: I don't know if it's overrated. I mean, I…my experience has been that I'd react. I think acting is just reacting, so in a given situation — in a scene — if it requires that I cry for whatever reason, I think about what I'm doing in that scene and that will invariably bring on the tears.
Andrew Denton: Would you mind if I tested your skills as a natural, because…I'm quite a talented writer and, er… I've written a…
Rebecca Gibney: Have you?
Andrew Denton: Look, it's a little thing. It's a script. Um, it's an original… it's an original script. It's called, er… And it's a police drama. It's called 'Murder, She Read — a Halifax Taggart Mystery'. And it's really… it's just completely original. A lot of interest from the commercials overseas in this. Now, I wrote the part of Halifax Taggart, P.I., with you in mind.
Rebecca Gibney: Did you? OK.

Andrew Denton: Could we just do the first scene together?
Rebecca Gibney: Yeah, sure.
Andrew Denton: Obviously, I play Detective Denton. So could we have the body?

(Man brings in mannequin)

There we go, excellent. Very good. Thank you, Angelo.
Rebecca Gibney: Are we standing up?
Andrew Denton: Oh, please. Here we go. Uh, could we just have…? This is a night-time scene. Could we have some moody lighting? Rebecca, if you could just…
Rebecca Gibney: Oh! I've got a mark.

Andrew Denton: You've got a mark and everything. OK. (Clears throat) Right. We're standing by the body. (With deep voice) What do you make of it, Taggart?
Rebecca Gibney: (With strong New Zealand accent) Murder with a blunt instrument. Possibly a tree.
Andrew Denton: (Quietly) More Australian, darling.
Rebecca Gibney: (Laughs)
Andrew Denton: Time?
Rebecca Gibney: Hard to say. At a guess, 10:42, Sunday morning. (Giggles)

Andrew Denton: Motive?
Rebecca Gibney: Who knows what goes on in the twisted, sick mind of a murdering killer?
Andrew Denton: Want to know what I think?
Rebecca Gibney: I don't care what… I don't care what you think? (Holding back laughter) Can't you see I love you?

(Audience laughs and applauds)

Andrew Denton: Go on.
Rebecca Gibney: That I've never wanted a man more?! You make every hormone in my body… bubble like cheap champagne.

Andrew Denton: This is a drama. Pull yourself together, Taggart.
Rebecca Gibney: Never! Take me now! Here, or so help me, the next body on the ground will be yours.
Andrew Denton: Rebecca Gibney, ladies and gentlemen!
Rebecca Gibney: (Giggles)
Andrew Denton: (Sitting down) Lot of interest. Lot of interest.
Rebecca Gibney: (Continues to laugh)

Andrew Denton: I'll give you a call, thanks.
Rebecca Gibney: That's very funny.
Andrew Denton: It's a drama!
Rebecca Gibney: Oh, sorry.
Andrew Denton: It's a drama!
Rebecca Gibney: Sorry.

Andrew Denton: Jesus! Hard for an artist to get respect in this country. World Vision. I want to show a clip of you. This is you in Soweto in South Africa.
Rebecca Gibney on World Vision video footage: It is like another world. It's like a hell on earth. I don't think people realise. It's so hard to get across… You see the images on television but it's nothing like what you actually see with your own eyes. Open sewers and, um, some people don't even have homes. They're just living out on the streets. Kids in rags.
Andrew Denton: You've been to a number of countries for World Vision — about eight or nine different countries.
Rebecca Gibney: Mostly Africa.
Andrew Denton: Mostly Africa? I assume that in those journeys you've seen stuff which is unimaginable to us.
Rebecca Gibney: Yep.

Andrew Denton: What sort of things?
Rebecca Gibney: Um, oh. Er, we were in one place in, um — actually there's a few places — but one place I remember, in Zimbabwe, we went to a refugee camp and there was, I think, about 35,000 people living in…basically just under plastic shelters and they were losing about 150 people a day. And a mother brought in a baby and the baby died in front of me when I was filming and I just…lost it. I couldn't keep going. And I saw that quite a lot.
Andrew Denton: How do people sustain themselves in those conditions? I'm not talking physically. How…? You've got parents with their kids dying.
Rebecca Gibney: Yep.
Andrew Denton: How on Earth did they…?
Rebecca Gibney: They have enormous faith. And it's quite extraordinary to watch. Even though they do suffer terribly, they…they… What kept coming through again and again was their faith. And that was all they did have, a lot of the time.

Andrew Denton: You believe in God, do you?
Rebecca Gibney: Yes.
Andrew Denton: You have a strong belief in God.
Rebecca Gibney: Yes, I do.
Andrew Denton: Has that faith ever been tested?
Rebecca Gibney: Many a time. My faith itself was sorely tested when I was about 17. After my father died, my brother contracted the first of two brain tumours. And he was 24 and his wife was pregnant with their first baby and I'll never forget him going into hospital, wheeled in with the bald head, and the nurse and doctor saying, "Say goodbye, because he's not going to make it." And he was there going, "Oh, praise God. Yes, I am. I'm…" You know, he had so much faith and so much belief and he had people praying for him left, right and centre and he was a medical miracle because even the doctors were amazed that he came out. And three days later he was having wheelchair races up and down the corridor and, you know, thank God, he's still here. He had another brain tumour eight years later, um, the size of a golf ball. Still here.

Andrew Denton: Does he play golf with it, now it's out? I've often wondered that, you know? They never keep them, do they?
Rebecca Gibney: No. I've never actually seen it.
Andrew Denton: What do you reckon heaven looks like?
Rebecca Gibney: Oh, gosh, I don't know. I don't believe that God is a man with a grey beard and a long white robe and a cane that hits you over the head and says, "You've been bad," just as I don't believe heaven is possibly, you know, all fluffy clouds. And I've got no idea and that's the mystery and that's what I love. I believe there is somewhere other than this, um, but I don't know where it is. I guess I'll find out when I cark it.
Andrew Denton: Are you OK now?
Rebecca Gibney: I'm OK now.

Andrew Denton: Are you relaxed?
Rebecca Gibney: Yeah. You're going to say it's all over now, aren't you?
Andrew Denton: It is all over. I'm going to love you and leave you.
Rebecca Gibney: OK.
Andrew Denton: Rebecca Gibney, thank you very much.
Rebecca Gibney: Thank you.

Andrew Denton (left) and Rebecca Gibney (right).

Source: ABC


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