Paperback Hero

Australia 1998

Reviewed by Rachel Malik


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Lucktown, Queensland, Australia, the present. Jack is a trucker who's just published a first, best-selling romance in secret, under the pseudonym of 'Ruby Vale', the name of his best friend. His publisher Ziggy arrives in their outback town hoping to persuade 'Ruby Vale' to come to Sydney to promote the book. Jack persuades the unwilling Ruby to pretend she's the author on the condition that the publishers pay for her wedding to her longstanding fiancé Hamish. The news that the plain-speaking, plane-loving Ruby has written a romance comes as a surprise to the town, but they're persuaded "everyone has at least one novel in them".

En route to Sydney, Jack fills Ruby in on "the creative process", while she reads the novel, intrigued by the similarities between the protagonists and themselves, a resemblance Jack denies unpersuasively. In the city, disoriented by the media glitz, they also realise they are in love. But their deception is discovered by both Ziggy and Hamish back home. Ziggy confronts Jack about his lie and demands he doesn't tell Ruby he knows; Hamish arrives in Sydney determined on an explanation. Ruby discovers Ziggy knows their secret and heads back home with a pacified Hamish, while Jack 'comes out' on television and stays in Sydney. Back in Lucktown, Hamish and Ruby have made plans to move away together, but at the last moment she refuses to leave. Jack arrives back to find Ruby has gone off on her own. Terrified of flying, he nevertheless takes off to find her on the open road and succeeds.


The premise which underlies Anthony J. Bowman's Paperback Hero (his previous film Cappuccino remains unreleased in the UK) is that fiction is always and inevitably autobiography. Trucker Jack doesn't look like a romance novelist: he spends most of his time on the road talking to his dog, making periodic returns to his outback hometown, a rickety, dusty, one-bar, one-café place where, as the folklore goes, men are men and the sheep are frightened. But while Jack may not look like a romance novelist, he certainly looks like a romantic lead. He's so certain men don't 'do' romance he publishes under a pseudonym - Ruby Vale - the name of the woman with whom he is unknowingly in love. She is also the barely disguised heroine of his novel, playing opposite a skimpily veiled version of Jack. The book is a success, and Ruby is persuaded by Jack to pretend to be its author. Ruby is no blushing, pastel Barbara Cartland but a crop-dusting pilot (who again just happens to look like a romantic lead); she doesn't speak the language of romance, but she agrees on the condition the publishers pay for her wedding. This is clearly a film which conceives romantic comedy as a combination of opposites attracting and unlikely juxtapositions. The problem is that Jack and Ruby are two of a kind: his trucker's-eye-view of the open, empty space of the road is like her perspective from the air, a point illustrated by the opening sequence's editing. It is perfectly obvious they should be together, and while the pleasures of romance are significantly about knowing what is going to happen before the protagonists do, there are clearly more and less successful ways of working this out.

And so we have the unlikely juxtapositions: the trucker who is romantically literate is intended to undercut the archetype of outback masculinity but in fact reinforces it. There is an equally clichéd opposition between city and country. The city is represented by the cynical, commerce-driven world of publishing, all cocktail parties and interchangeable execs, personified by Ziggy, whose power dressing and micro-eating are the antithesis of blunt but deep outback values. "In the city you can be anyone," she says without irony, staring out at the Sydney skyline from her metal and glass apartment. Jack and Ruby, by contrast, are simple souls: he parks his truck outside the slick downtown offices of the publisher; she is anxious about wearing a cocktail frock. But these are markers of their authenticity, as is the way they can only declare their love to each other by doing a duet of 'Crying' in a karaoke match (for which they win a turkey).


Lance W. Reynolds
John Winter
Antony J. Bowman
Director of Photography
David Burr
Veronika Jenet
Production Designer
Jon Dowding
Music/Music Producer
Burkhard Dallwitz
©Australian Film Finance Corporation Limited/the State of Queensland and Paperback Films Pty Limited
Production Companies
Australian Film Finance Corporation presents a Paperback Films production
A Lance W. Reynolds production
Film developed with the assistance of Archer Films Entertainment
Co-financed by the Pacific Film and Television Commission
Dani Rogers
Production Executive
Archer Entertainment:
Pamela Suchman
Production Co-ordinator
Sydney Co-ordinator
Sandy Stevens
Production Manager
Rosslyn Abernethy
Unit Manager
Dave Suttor
Location Managers
Chris Strewe
Robin Clifton
Post-production Supervisor
Sylvia Walker-Wilson
Assistant Directors
Charles Rotherham
Matthew Bartley
Marc Ashton
2nd Unit:
Rob Visser
Marc Ashton
Jenny Quigley
Faith Martin
Kristin Dale
Script Consultants
Katherine Butler
Katharine Thornton
2nd Unit Director of Photography
Ian 'Thistle' Thorburn
Camera Operator
Richard Merryman
TV Insert Compilation
Bruce Redman
Star Footage
Matt Butler
Digital Effects
Digital Effects Producer:
Bruce Williamson
Flame Artist:
Morgane Furio
Illusion Artist:
Chris Leaver
DFilm Services
Special Effects
Mark Harry Ward
Peter Keane
Art Director
Adam Head
Set Decorator
Paul Hurrell
Graffiti Artist
Ben Hurrell
Andrew Best
Sign Artist
Quentin Hall
Photographic Artist
Tony Falloon
Andrew Hays
Scenic Artists
Adam Smigielski
Bob Daley
Costume Designer
Louise Wakefield
Costume Supervisor
Graham Purcell
Make-up/Hair Supervisor
Margaret Stevenson
Make-up Artist
Maree McDonald
Peter Woodward
Title Design
Optical & Graphic
Featured Electric Guitar
David Herzog
Music Performed by
The Victorian Philharmonic Orchestra
Orchestra Leader:
Rudolf Osadnik
Geoffrey Hales
Matthew Arnold
Daryl McKenzie
Additional Music Editing
Gary O'Grady
Music Recordists
Michael Letho
Robin Gray
Fairlight MFX 3 Operator
Keith Thomas
"Crying" by Roy Orbison, Joe Melson, performed by Roy Orbison, also performed by Hugh Jackman & Claudia Karvan; "Oh Pretty Woman" by Roy Orbison, Bill Dees; "Only the Lonely" by Roy Orbison, Joe Melson, performed by Roy Orbison; "JD Blues" by/performed by Scott Kingman; "Proud Man" by Jon Stevens, Barbara Griffin, performed by Jon Stevens; "Mairi's Wedding" traditional bagpipe march, performed/arranged by Scott Nugent; "Paper Tiger" by John D. Loudermilk, performed by Sue Thompson; "Strangers in the Night" by Bert Kaempfert, Charles Singleton, Eddie Snyder; "I Remember You" by John H. Mercer, Victor Schertzinger, performed by Frank Ifield; "Suddenly" by/performed by Soraya; "High" by Paul Tucker, Emmanuel Baiyewu, performed by Lighthouse Family; "I Drove All Night" by Tom Kelly, Billy Steinberg, performed by Roy Orbison; "She's Taken My Words (theme from Paperback Hero)" by Andrew Tierney, Michael Tierney, performed by Human Nature
Sound Supervisors
John Dennison
Tony Vaccher
Sound Recordist
Greg Burgmann
Re-recording Mixers
Tony Vaccher
John Dennison
Dialogue Editor
Ross Brewer
Sound Effects
John Cowper Patterson
John Dennison
Recording, London:
The Bridge
Tom Livsey
Paul Huntingford
Duncan McAllister
John Dennison
Duncan McAllister
Stunt Co-ordinator
Danny Baldwin
Dog Trainer
Sue Thompson
Action Vehicles Co-ordinator
Mark Harry Ward
Bi-plane Pilot
Bruce McGarvie
Cessna Pilots
Daryl Jones
Jason O'toole
2nd Unit Helicopter
Geoff McTaggart
Claudia Karvan
Ruby Vale
Hugh Jackman
Jack Willis
Angie Milliken
Ziggy Keane
Andrew S. Gilbert
Jeanie Drynan
Bruce Venables
Barry Rugless
Mad Pete
Barry Lea
Stephen Collins
café drinker
Randel Ross
Bill Watson
Mr Reece
Scott Nugent
Buck's night bag pipe player
Brooke Fairley
dancing girl
Ross Marsden
country drinker
Charlie Little
Ritchie Singer
Tony Barry
Larissa Chen
Vashti Pontaks
Michael Forde
Catherine Miller
Andrew Buchanan
city drunk
Simon Burvill-Homes
Leon Delaney
radio announcer
Daniel Murphy
make-up artist
Adam Ray
Clive Rooney
Doughlas Hedge
George West
Russell Dykstra
Robyn Moore
Steve Ridley
character voices
Diana McLean
Lance, the dog
PolyGram Filmed Entertainment
8,685 feet
96 minutes 30 seconds
In Colour
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011