The Castle (1997 Australian film)

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The Castle
File:The castle poster.jpg
DVD cover
Directed by Rob Sitch
Produced by Debra Chocolate
Written by Santo Cilauro
Tom Gleisner
Jane Kennedy
Rob Sitch
Starring Michael Caton
Anne Tenney
Stephen Curry
Sophie Lee
Eric Bana
Narrated by Stephen Curry
Music by Craig Harnath
Edmund Choi (US version)
Cinematography Miriana Marusic
Edited by Wayne Hyett
Distributed by Village Roadshow (AU)
Miramax Films (US)
Release dates
10 April 1997
Running time
84 minutes
Country Australia
Language English
Budget A$750,000
Box office A$10.3 million

The Castle is a 1997 Australian comedy-drama film directed by Rob Sitch. It starred Michael Caton, Anne Tenney, Tiriel Mora, Stephen Curry, Sophie Lee, Eric Bana (in his film debut) and Charles 'Bud' Tingwell. The screenwriting team comprised Sitch, Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner and Jane Kennedy of Working Dog Productions.

The Castle was filmed in 11 days on a budget of approximately A$750,000.[1] The film gained widespread acclaim in Australia and New Zealand, but was not widely distributed globally. It grossed A$10,326,428 at the box office in Australia. [2]

The film's title is based after the English saying, repeatedly referred to in the film, "a man's home is his castle". Its humour plays on the national self image, most notably the concept of working class Australians and their place in modern Australia.[3]


The Kerrigan home, in the outer Melbourne blue collar suburb of Coolaroo, is filled with love as well as pride in their modest lifestyle, but their happiness is threatened when developers attempt the compulsory acquisition of their house to expand the neighbouring airport.

The Kerrigan house is built in a largely undeveloped housing tract, on a toxic landfill, and directly adjacent to an airport runway. Despite all this, sweet-natured family patriarch Darryl (Michael Caton) believes that he lives in the lap of luxury. Blissfully unaware of his family's lack of style or sophistication, he busies himself by driving a tow truck, racing greyhounds, and constantly adding tacky renovations to the house. The rest of the Kerrigan clan shares and supports his enthusiasm in every way.

One day, a property valuer arrives to inspect the house. Though he has no wish to sell, Darryl points out all the features of the property, believing they'll add value to the appraisal. A few weeks later, he receives a letter informing him of the compulsory acquisition of his house for the sum of A$70,000. His neighbours (elderly Jack, divorcee Yvonne, and Farrouk and Tabulah, recent immigrants from Lebanon) all receive similar notices. Believing on common principle that the government cannot evict him unwillingly from his treasured home, Darryl attempts to fight the eviction. Agents from the airport try to bribe and bully the family into giving up, but their actions only stiffen the Kerrigans' resolve. Darryl hires an incompetent lawyer acquaintance, Dennis Denuto (Tiriel Mora), but Dennis' meagre argument that the eviction goes against "the vibe" of the Constitution does not go well in court. While awaiting the court's final decision, Darryl makes pleasant small talk with a man whom he meets outside the courthouse, Lawrence Hammill (Bud Tingwell), who has come to watch his son (a barrister) perform in court. The court rejects the family's appeal and gives them two weeks to vacate. The purchase price for the home is scarcely enough to cover a small apartment. Dejected in defeat, the family begins to pack.

A new breath of hope comes with the surprise arrival of Lawrence, who reveals himself as a retired Queen's Counsel. Lawrence has taken an interest in the Kerrigans' case and offers to argue before the High Court of Australia on their behalf, pro bono. Lawrence makes a persuasive case that the Kerrigans have the right to just terms of compensation for acquisition of property under Section 51(xxxi) of the Australian Constitution. He closes by paraphrasing Darryl's own comments that his house is more than just a structure of bricks and mortar, but a home built with love and shared memories. The court rules in favour of the Kerrigans, and their case becomes a landmark precedent on the subject. An epilogue shows that the Kerrigans continue to prosper happily, and Lawrence becomes a lasting friend of the family.


  • Michael Caton as Darryl Kerrigan, the patriarch of the family
  • Anne Tenney as Sal Kerrigan, his loving wife
  • Stephen Curry as Dale Kerrigan, the youngest son, digger of holes, and narrator of the film
  • Sophie Lee as Tracey Petropoulous (née Kerrigan), the family's only daughter, a newlywed hair dresser
  • Eric Bana as Con Petropoulous, Tracey's new husband, an accountant and amateur kickboxer
  • Anthony Simcoe as Steve Kerrigan, the second oldest son and an apprentice mechanic
  • Wayne Hope as Wayne Kerrigan, the black sheep, who is serving time for armed robbery but is loved by his family regardless
  • Tiriel Mora as Dennis Denuto, a bumbling small-time lawyer who previously failed to defend Wayne on his charge
  • Costas Kilias as Farouk, the Kerrigans' neighbour
  • Charles 'Bud' Tingwell as Lawrence Hammill QC, a retired barrister who comes to the Kerrigans' aid by defending them pro bono
  • John Flaus as Sgt. Kennedy, a local police officer
  • Tony Martin as Adam Hammill, Lawrence's son (brief, mostly non-speaking cameo)
  • Ian Ross appears as himself, a Channel Nine newsreader

Legal principles

The film refers to the land rights movement of the Australian Aborigines, with Darryl Kerrigan drawing an explicit parallel between his struggle and theirs. It also draws on one of the few rights protected in the Australian Constitution for subject matter, the right to just terms compensation for acquisition of property under s51(xxxi). Also interspersed in the film are many references to famous Australian Constitutional Law Cases, such as Mabo and the Tasmanian Dams Case. The film also deals with section 109 of the Constitution which provides that in the case of an inconsistency between Federal and State law, the Federal law shall prevail to the extent of the inconsistency.

For the purpose of the drama, some of the relevant legal principles are simplified. For example, the law relating to compulsory acquisition can be complicated and raises more questions than are noted in the film.[4] Similarly, in contrast to Kerrigan's idea that the value he places on his own home cannot be bought, the law regularly places a monetary value on intangible values.


According to Santo Cilauro, the film took five weeks from original inception to final cut. The movie was written in two weeks, shot in ten days and taken to rough cut in two weeks.[5][6]

The Castle was filmed mostly in Melbourne, Australia. The external shots of the Kerrigan household were shot at 3 Dagonet St, Strathmore, and airport footage was shot at Essendon Airport and Melbourne Airport. Location shots of Brunswick feature in the film, including Brunswick Town Hall and Rocky Porcino Pharmarcy at 720 Sydney Rd (Dennis's office). Melbourne's 200 Queen Street and the Supreme Court of Victoria are featured along with the High Court of Australia in Canberra. Some of the film is set in Bonnie Doon, and a very small portion of it was shot there.

The name Kerrigan was chosen for the family so that tow trucks for the film could be borrowed from an existing Melbourne tow truck company with that name. The company still operates today.[7]

In January 2011, 3491 Maintongoon Road, Bonnie Doon was listed for sale. The property appeared in the film as the Kerrigan family holiday house.[8] The property's real estate agent reported that many people called and after requesting the vendor's asking price, replied with a quote from the movie: "Tell him he's dreamin'."[9]

Alternative versions

In the US version, there were several minor changes to dialogue. "Rissole" was changed to "meatloaf", "two-stroke" was changed to "diesel", references to the Australian TV show Hey Hey It's Saturday were changed to the more generic Funniest Home Videos (which existed in both markets), and the brand names of the various cars in the driveway were changed from uniquely Australian cars like the Camira, to ones sold in both countries like the Corolla.[10]

The Australian TV-Version for "before 8.30pm screening" has scenes of explicit language either completely cut or, where possible, masked by aircraft noises or redubbed when lip movements are not visible. When broadcast after 8:30pm, all explicit language is intact.

Box office

The Castle grossed A$10,326,428 at the box office in Australia,[11] over 13 times its A$750,000 budget.

US rights were bought by Miramax for a rumoured $6 million.[12]

Critical reception

The Castle received positive reviews from critics. It retains a "Fresh" 88% rating from review-aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 34 reviews.[13]

Roger Ebert gave the film 3 stars out of 4, calling it "one of those comic treasures like "The Full Monty" and "Waking Ned Devine" that shows its characters in the full bloom of glorious eccentricity".[14]

In 2011, Time Out London named it the 25th greatest comedy film of all time.[15]


Award Category Subject Result
(1997 AFI Awards)
Best Original Screenplay Santo Cilauro Won
Tom Gleisner Won
Jane Kennedy Won
Rob Sitch Won
Best Actor Michael Caton Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Charles Tingwell Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Sophie Lee Nominated
Australian Movie Convention Australian Movie of the Year Rob Sitch Won
British Independent Film Award Best Foreign Independent Film - English Language Nominated
European Film Award Screen International Award Rob Sitch Nominated
FCCA Awards Best Film Nominated
Best Screenplay - Original Santo Cilauro Nominated
Tom Gleisner Nominated
Jane Kennedy Nominated
Rob Sitch Nominated
Best Actor - Male Michael Caton Nominated
Best Supporting Actor - Male Charles Tingwell Nominated
Best Supporting Actor - Female Sophie Lee Nominated
Stockholm International Film Festival Bronze Horse Rob Sitch Nominated

See also


  1. Kaufman, Anthony. "Interview: A man's movie is his "Castle"- Rob Sitch's Aussie debut". IndieWire. Retrieved 25 February 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Wills, Dominic. "Eric Bana – Biography". Talk Talk. Retrieved 13 April 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. McElroy, Wendy (20 October 2006). "A Man's Home Is His Castle". Freedom Daily. The Future of Freedom Foundation. Retrieved 13 April 2010.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Hardwick, Ben (27 October 2015). "'Tell him he's dreamin': five myths about The Castle and the law". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2 November 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Interview with Santo Cilauro, Signit, 6 February 1997 accessed 14 October 2012
  6. Peter Malone, "A House is a Castle", Cinema Papers, April 1997 p10-12
  7. "The Castle (1997) – Trivia". IMDB.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Taylor, Christian (11 January 2011). "Piece of Aussie cinema history up for sale". Australian Times. Archived from the original on 7 March 2011. Retrieved 7 March 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Heard, Hamish (30 January 2011). "The Castle's shack goes up for sale". Herald Sun. Archived from the original on 7 March 2011. Retrieved 7 March 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. R4 vs R1 DVD Comparison (scroll down to the section "R4 vs R1")
  11. "Australian Films at the Australian Box Office". Film Victoria. 23 September 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 March 2011. Retrieved 7 March 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Tearlach Hutchenson, "The Castle", Cinema Papers, August/September 2000 p10-14
  13. "The Castle - Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Roger Ebert (1999-05-04). "The Castle".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "100 Best Comedy Movies". Time Out London. Retrieved 17 September 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links