Archibald Prize-winning artist Adam Cullen — the award is the most prestigious portrait prize in Australia — asked journalist Erik Jensen to write his biography. Jensen moved in with the artist and ended up stayed for about four years, during which Cullen spiraled into drug use and weapons possession. In fact, to show his commitment to telling Cullen’s story, Jensen was shot in the leg.
After Cullen’s death in 2012, Jensen completed and published Acute Misfortune: The Life and Death of Adam Cullen. The writer was pretty much traumatized by the experience, but felt that he had to finish writing the book to exorcise it from his soul.
Thomas M. Wright co-wrote, produced and directed this film, taking his acting knowledge and transforming it into a film that many considered one of Australia’s best films.
The film focuses on the complex relationship between the artist and his biographer. Wright wanted to not just make a biographical film or just make the movie of the story, but sought to question the book itself.
Authenticity was important to everyone involved. David Henshall, who plays Cullen, lost 49 pounds making the film. He wore Cullen’s actual clothes and used his paintbrushes in addition to meeting many of the people in the artist’s life.
While we don’t often cover films of this caliber, we recognize them when we do get to see them. If you’d like to learn the story behind the story, this is a worthwhile watch. This will be available on demand as of November 3.