Friday, August 29, 2014

Randall Berger

Today I'm going to learn about an American-Australian. Randall Berger. He had a small role in Come in Spinner.

It's not often that I see American characters on Australian television shows, and when I do, they're usually portrayed as buffoons or bullies. Well, I'm really just thinking of Home and Away and Neighbours. I don't think I've seen American characters on other Australian shows... well, besides Come in Spinner

There were three American characters on Come in Spinner. One was bad—a rapist. The other two were rather neutral. Randall Berger's character was friendly enough. He seemed like a sweet guy.  He kind of reminded me of Wayne Knight from Seinfeld. Although Knight's character from Seinfeld was neither sweet nor friendly. 

Anyway, when I saw the Americans on the show, I thought it would be interesting to look at one of their careers. I'd like to get an idea of what it's like to work as an American actor immigrant in Australia. Because usually it's the opposite. Usually we have Australian actors working in America. 

I'm going to start my research with Randall Berger's IMDb biography page.

Berger was born in Fort Irwin, California on May 10, 1953.

He grew up in Santa Barbara and did theater work.

Then in 1973, he moved to Australia. The reason given is "wanderlust". Why Australia? Because his best friend had moved there a few years earlier with his family. I guess Berger loved them enough to want to follow them. 

Berger continued with his theater work in Australia. 

He got married and lived in Melbourne. 

IMDb says his body size and Americanness kept him from having a wealth of roles available to him. 

I wonder if he tried doing an Aussie accent.

Australian actors do pretty well in America, but I think that's because they fake the American accent. If they didn't, I think there'd be much less work for them. There's not a lot of Australian characters on our shows. The two I can think of offhand both had a relationship with a Vanessa Williams character. I think that's pretty funny. 

You I'm curious. I'm going to look that up: Australian characters on American TV shows. 

I found this list, which is actually Australian actors and not characters, but it does include a couple of Aussies who played Aussies.  

Emilie de Ravin played an Australian girl on Lost.  Julian McMahon played an Australian on the American soap opera Another World. And this isn't on the list, but it just came into my brain. I think Elle MacPherson played an Australian on a few episodes of Friends.

Can any of you think of more examples?

I should get back to Berger. 

He's married to a woman named Helen Sandercoe. According to this website, Sandercoe is a drama teacher. Unless I'm looking at the wrong Helen Sandercoe. It's possible...but I doubt it. 

Now I'm going to look at Randall Berger's filmography. 

His first screen thing was in 1981, about eight years after immigrating to Australia. Berger guest-starred on Prisoner: Cell Block H

I think I found the episode on YouTube. I'm going to see if I can find Berger. I'm curious to know if he attempted an Aussie accent, or if he's playing an American. His character name is 
Hal Leifenbacker. That sounds very German to me. Or maybe some other type of European. So maybe his accent won't be Aussie OR American.

I just googled the name Leifenbacker and all I got was Prisoner websites. So maybe it was a name created for the show.

While I wait for Leifenbacker to appear, I'll continue with Berger's filmography.

In 1983, Berger played an American reporter in the movie Phar Lap. His character didn't have a name, so I guess it was a small part.

Berger has a very long filmography. I think I'm going to skip anything else in which his character doesn't have a name. Usually unnamed characters are small roles.

The filmography is long and I think most of the roles are small. That leads me to think that we can label Berger as a character actor.

In 1986, Berger was in a movie called Death of a Soldier. Lord Wiki says it was an Australian film about an American serial killer. Interesting.

Here's the trailer. I didn't expect to see Berger in it, but I was curious about the film. So I decided to watch it anyway.

Guess what. I think he's actually in the trailer. He's at the very beginning, looking happy.

And he comes back for even more scenes.

I'm trying to figure out the story.

Maybe it's about an American serial killer in Australia. I was about to say London. But that was a werewolf.

So far, I'm hearing only Americans. Maybe Australian filmmakers were just interested in this particular American story, so they decided to make a movie about it.

No. Wait. A synopsis for the film on Imdb says...Set in the context of WWII and the uneasy US-Australian military alliance. So that means Australia does have a part in the storyline.

I'm talking to Lord Wiki now. I'm glad I finally came up with the idea of doing that. Like usual, Lord Wiki has the answers.

The movie is about Eddie Leonski.  He was an American solider that murdered three women in Melbourne. So the movie is about Americans and Australians.

In 1987, Berger was in a TV movie with Noni Hazlehurst—Nancy Wake.

Here's the trailer.

Actually, I think it's the opening credits.

In 1988, Berger appeared in a movie called Backstage. The star was the singer Laura Branigan.

Lord Wiki says it's about an American singer who gets a lead role in an Australian theater production. The rest of the cast and crew aren't happy about an American getting the role.

In 1989, Berger was in a British movie called Shadow of the Cobra. I was wondering if he moved to the UK for awhile. But it looks like the answer is no. The movie was filmed partly in Australia.

In 1990, Berger did a lot of projects. One was Come in Spinner, the mini-series I saw him in. He was in seven things besides that. One of them was a short film. In three he played unnamed characters.

I'll just go over the full-length projects in which Berger played named characters.

He was in a mini-series called Flair. Lord Wiki says this starred Heather Thomas as an American who wanted to work in the Australian fashion industry.

I'm seeing a pattern here. Well, there's two cases of Berger being in projects about Americans trying to work in Australia. I'm not sure if two examples actually equals a pattern. But maybe there will be more cases to add to the not-quite-yet-a-pattern.

Berger was in the pilot of a TV series called Embassy.  Lord Wiki says it was about an Australian embassy in a fictional Asian country.

He was in a mini-series called the Lancaster Miller Affair. Lord Wiki disagrees about it being one of Berger's 1990 projects. He says the show was made in 1985.

Lord Wiki says the movie had some troubles with the Australian actor equity, because they hired a British person and an American person for the lead roles. It wasn't Berger who had the lead role, but a guy named Joseph Bottoms.

So anyway, back to this Australian equity thing. Is there a rule about hiring Australian actors rather than other actors?

I can kind of see why they'd need something like that. Since American and British music stars seem to do better in Australia than Australians, the same case might be true for actors.

What films do better in Australia? American films with American movie stars or Australian films? I think I already know the answer.

If you hire Australian and British actors, the films might get more attention.

Here's the 2014 Australian box office stats.  As far as I know, they're all American movies until you get to Wolf Creek 2 at #40.

I'm not easily finding anything about the Australian Equity rules. Do any of you know more about this?

Anyway....I'm gonna move on.

Before I go off to 1991, I wanted to say that I found Berger on the Prisoner episode.  His scene starts at 21:39, and he does play an American.  A guard's husband calls to kindly request that she not wear her uniform home because he's entertaining Americans, and Americans judge people by their family members. I won't deny that's true in some cases. But I think some Americans would be impressed by a woman who's a prison guard.

The man wants a job from the Americans.

The wife doesn't want to change without getting her shower first.

Such drama!

American accents sound so strange to me in the midst of a bunch of Australian ones. They sound so...American.

It's a fun scene. The husband is trying to answer questions about his wife without revealing the fact that she works with prisoners. He tells them she does social work, and of course the guests aren't picturing prison-type social work.

Oh well. The secret wasn't kept from the Americans. It turns out Mr. Leifenbacker saw the guard on her uniform.

The cat is out of the bag.

And the Americans do seem unsettled about the prison work.

That kind of surprises me.

I mean I can understand prejudice if the woman was a prisoner herself. But a guard?

Now the Australian husband and wife are fighting. The woman stands up for herself. You don't tell someone to hide who they are so you can make a good impression. I mean you can, but you'll have to expect that you're going to make someone angry and unhappy.

I've kept things quiet about family members, but not to the point of asking them to hide parts of themselves.  And you know, I think that's fine. It's not like you meet someone and then start blurting out things about your family. But eventually, if things go well...the time will come for them to meet your family, and then the certain facts will be revealed.

I just watched the end of the episode. The Australian man lost the contract and he blames his wife. He says it's shameful for a businessman's wife to be working at all, and even worse for her to be a prison guard. Really? In the 1980's? Or is the show supposed to take place in an earlier time period?

Although in late 1980's Home and Away, there was a storyline about Frank not wanting his new wife to go to uni, and he also wasn't keen on her helping to manage a coffee shop.

I know there is sexism about women working...even today. But I'd expect it to usually be more subtle.

There was a time that I felt like a victim of sexism—in terms of working; Tim not taking some of my wishes seriously. But I think it was more a matter of my plans interfering with Tim's plans. Because he's very supportive of women working in general. I'm guessing for a lot of couples it's the same way. It's not about men vs. women. It's about my career plans vs. your career plans.  I guess there are  cases, though, where it is pure sexism. I'm the man, so I'm the one who should have the job...even if the woman has an equal or better chance of succeeding.

Let me get back to Berger.

In 1992, he appeared in a movie with Anthony Hopkins. Spotswood.  Lord Wiki says It's about a consultant who tries to improve the efficiency of a company.

Here's a trailer of the movie. I don't see Berger.

The movie does have a lot of names (and faces) I recognize, though—Ben Mendelsohn, Toni Collete, Russell Crowe, and Dan Wylie.

In 1992, Berger was in the miniseries Stark. It was a British-Australian science fiction comedy thing.

In 1996, Berger was in Shine.  He plays a character named Isaac Stern. That sounds familar to me.

Lord Wiki says Stern is a violinist and conductor. Since Shine is about a pianist, I'm guessing this is the Stern that Berger played. It fits into the whole music thing.

Lord Wiki says it was Stern who wanted to be David Helgott's mentor in America.  I'd love to see that scene. I'm not sure if it will be on YouTube.

I searched for Stern and the movie...didn't find anything. I'll watch the trailer. Maybe Berger/Stern will show up there.

Well, I heard Berger's voice. It's an off-camera type :43.

Also in 1996, Berger did voice-work on a video-game called The Dame Was Loaded.  I've never heard of it. I wonder if Tim or Jack ever have. They know more about video games than me.

Lord Wiki says it's a PC game with a film noir kind of mood.

Here's a walk-through of the game.

Berger appears at 1:14. I think he plays one of the main characters.

I'm impressed with the graphics. It looks more like a movie than a game.

And we have one more project for 1996. The Genie From Down Under.  I thought the movie was American. I know down under refers to Australia. But I picture it as something other countries use to refer to Australia rather than Australians using it to refer to Australia.

I was thinking of something along the lines of Sabrina Down Under and The Facts of Life Down Under. But from what I see, The Genie from Down Under is an Aussie film.

No. Wait. It's a British-Australian thing, and the main character is British. She's a young girl who finds an opal pendant that contains two Aussie genies.

Berger was on the first episode of the show. It's on YouTube. I'll try to find Berger.

The two genies are a father and son.

I think Berger is the guy sneezing in the part two video of the episode. That's at 4:10.

In 1999 Berger was in the movie Dead End. It's about an ex-detective who becomes a crime writer.  I can't find much about it.

Berger also did an episode of Stingers that year. I think maybe I've heard of that show.

In 2000, Berger played an American ambassador in the series The Games. The show was a parody about the Sydney Olympic games committee. It sounds pretty cool to me.

In 2001, Berger reunited with his Come in Spinner coworker, Rebecca Gibney. in an episode of Halifax. Though I don't know if they actually have a scene together in Halifax.

On the children's program, The Basil Brush Show, Berger played an American tourist named Harvey.

Oh! Lord Wiki says it was a British show.  Did Berger move to the UK for awhile?

In 2002, Berger was in a Star Wars fan film short called Broken Allegiance.

Or maybe it's not a fan film. Maybe it's an official thing?

No. Lord Wiki says it IS a fan film, and it received a lot of attention from the media.

It's kind of a big deal in the fan-film world.

Since I'm not big into Star Wars, I'm not going to watch the whole thing. I'll just skip around to find Berger.

I think that's him at 3:34. I hear a slight bit of Australian in his voice.  Or maybe it's my imagination.

At 5:55, you can see Darth Vader using the force on Berger.

In 2006, Berger was in When Darkness Falls, a movie about a lesbian detective. I can't find much about that.

I'll move onto his other 2006 project. This was Welcome Stranger.

Lord Wiki just reminded me that Welcome Stranger was the name of the largest gold nugget found in Australia. The movie is about something different, but the title still might be alluding to the gold.

Well, I can't find much about that movie either.

Moving on again....

In 2009, Berger was in the movie Personality Plus. It's about a criminal with five personalities.  And though it was filmed in Australia, it's about an FBI agent. So I guess it's about Americans. Unless there's an FBI agent in Australia?

Also in 2009, Berger was in a show about TV Sketch comedy called I Can't Believe It's Not Better. It sounds similar to 30 Rock.

One of the actors on the show is Leo from Offspring!

According to IMDb, there was a competition on the Comedy Channel where people would pitch their ideas. I Can't Believe It's Not Better won the 2008 competition.  Although from what I read in this article, it sounds like they won the 2007 competition.

In 2010, Berger was in the Ballad of Des and Mo. It's about an Irish couple who comes to Australia for a second honeymoon. They lose their luggage and then their bankcard. Yikes.

Here's the trailer.  Is that Berger at :20. I think it is. His beard throws me off a bit. But that does sound like him. It's not just his American accent that stands out to me. But he also has a distinctive voice—kind of hoarse.

In 2011, Berger appeared in the second episode of Angry Boys. Isn't there an American character in that? I wonder if Berger appeared in that particular storyline.

Recently, Berger was in the movie John Doe: Vigilante. It sounds like something Tim or my dad would enjoy.

Here's the trailer.

Lachy Hulme from Offspring is in it!

The movie actually looks kind of interesting to me. Maybe I'd like it too.

Tim and I watched a show recently in which a police detective administered vigilante justice. What he did was wrong...yes. But at the same time, what he did was incredibly right.  It's so morally complicated.

The guy he killed was selling young Asian women in a sex trade.

There ARE people in this world who are just evil...filth.

The problem is there are also people in this world who are part evil, but then another part of them is very decent. Like another character on the same show who happens to be a serial murderer. Yet at the same time he has a really sweet and loving side.

I'm okay with extremely bad people being murdered by vigilante justice. I'm a bit more hesitant on those who are less than extremely bad.

And sometimes it's about perspective. Maybe the guy abusing Asian woman has a soft side we're not seeing. Like maybe he has a younger brother in the hospital that he visits all the time. And maybe he makes gorgeous fondant cakes that he donates to the hospital.

Anyway...I missed something before because it's on the top end of Berger's filmography, though it happened in the 1980's. Berger was on three episodes of Neighbours in 1987.  The reason it's on top of the filmography is Berger also appeared in a 2012 episode as a different character.

IMDb confuses me when it does stuff like that.

Now I'm going to see if Lord Wiki has an entry on Randall Berger.

No. It looks like he doesn't.

Here's Randall Berger's Twitter page.  It's been two years since he last updated.

In July 2012 he talked about Americans dying from guns.

Here's his Linkedin page. Besides being an actor, Berger is also a civil celebrant. He can do weddings and a variety of other services.

Berger has also worked in marketing and advertising for Yodgee Footwear. Though he had that job for less than a year.

He's a lecturer at Victoria University. If I'm understanding this right, he teachers business communication.

Here's his celebrant Facebook page. He strongly supports same-sex marriage.

The Facebook Page has a link to Berger singing "Happy" in a JibJab video. Maybe Andrew  will enjoy it, or at least count the women to make sure it's gender-inclusive enough.

Oh! Wow. This is so sweet. It totally tugged at my heart strings. Berger writes, Did a wedding today for a lovely couple who sought me out because I was in favour of marriage equality. The Bride asked me to add, after the Monitum, "She hopes that one day she can stand next to her sister (as maid of honour) when she marries the woman she loves." Got a round of applause!

I think I would have probably cried if I was there.

Wouldn't that be funny, though, if the sister was secretly thinking, But I don't want you as my maid of honor!

Berger has a cool photo of people at a wedding all eating watermelon.

From what I see on his Facebook Page, Berger seems very awesome.

It's funny. A few days ago, I thought of him as this World War II old-fashioned American soldier who reminded me of Newman on Seinfeld.  And now I see him as this modern guy with a huge passion for human rights.

Here's his resume on an acting website.

It says his build is very large. I don't think he's that big. Again, though, the screen industry has such different standards. In the regular world, I'd say he'd be moderately big. In the screenworld, he's probably considered huge.

Well, I just plugged his given stats into a BMI calculator. It does list him as obese.

Maybe I'm just a bad judge of size.

The resume lists his accents. He does American.

It's too bad he couldn't do the Australian accent. I think he'd have a much easier time finding work.

Berger is also a writer. I'm not sure if I saw that on his Linkedin resume or not.

For three years, he was an editor for Macworld Magazine in Australia.

He has worked on some projects about Victoria history.

The resume has some personal information. Berger was naturalized in 1995. I think that's the same as becoming a citizen. Right? Tim was naturalized. It kind of sounds being pasteurized.

Okay. Yeah. Lord Wiki says it's becoming a citizen. Same meaning, different word.

Randall and his wife Helen have three daughters.

And in 2002, he did move to the UK for 12 months. I wonder if his family came with him.

You know I ignored something on IMDb because it didn't list a character name and I was skipping those shows.  But it's on Berger's resume, so it's probably important to him. I'm feeling like I should mention it.  In 2001, Berger was in Child Star: The Shirley Temple Story.  He played the president of Chase bank.

Well, I think I'm going to end here.