Home by Christmas talk to Russell Baillie about their shared' />

The Anzac pairing playing director Gaylene Preston's father in her family wartime memoir Home by Christmas talk to Russell Baillie about their shared role.

One is a New Zealander finding his way in Hollywood who has finally got to make a feature at home. The other is an Australian who has been in New Zealand films almost since they began.

There's a fair few decades between them and right now thousands of kilometres too - Martin Henderson is on the line from Los Angeles, while Tony Barry is in Sydney. The reason? To discuss a bloke they've never met but both know very well.

That's the late Ed Preston, father of director Gaylene Preston and the focus of her movie Home By Christmas.

Henderson plays Ed, the young West Coast bloke who signed up for World War II telling his wife Tui he'd probably be back by, well, as the title says. However, a stint in an Italian prisoner of war camp after being captured in North Africa modified his plans.

In a fine piece of Anzac casting, Barry plays Ed in his dotage, telling his curious tape-recording daughter what he did in the war.

Once they're both on the line, the inevitable jokes start about what adding or subtracting 50 years will do to a guy.

"I had no idea I was so good looking as a young bloke," says Barry.

"I was relieved if that is what I am going to end up looking like," says Henderson.

Both agree on the pressures that came with becoming a honorary Preston, a family whose war history has featured on screen before. Tui has already told her story on camera as one of the women talking about their homefront WWII experiences in her daughter's 1995 documentary War Stories.

Ed died in 1992 - Barry's riveting performance is the narrative muscle of the film, based on hours of interviews the director did the previous year with her dad after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

It's Barry's most memorable turn in a New Zealand film since he got behind a speeding yellow mini in 1981's Goodbye Pork Pie.

He says doing the role was, aside from helping Preston tell her parents' story, something of a thank you to New Zealand for the opportunities it's given him over the years. After all, Pork Pie meant he appeared on a stamp here, which he still sounds mighty chuffed about. So much that he has never minded that when he's been recognised here, sometimes folks mistake him for the late Barry Crump.

Playing Ed Preston, another quintessential New Zealand bloke, was no ordinary role, agree Barry and Henderson,.

After all, you were playing the director's father in a film which also featured the director's daughter, Chelsea Preston Crayford, in the role of her grandmother.

"It certainly occurred to me that there was another form of pressure albeit an imagined one," says Henderson. "I really don't think any of that was coming from Gaylene or any of the family members that were involved with the project. It was more just a sense of duty that I created in my own head."

Says Barry: "I felt a enormous responsibility, more so for me being an Australian playing a quintessential Kiwi joker.

"But actually playing Gaylene's dad - if I had allowed myself to appreciate the enormity of the responsibility I may have wet myself. And at my age that is not a good look."

Barry's performance was largely filmed before Henderson got involved. Originally the depiction of Ed's wartime adventures - when Italy surrendered he crossed the border to Switzerland and spent a year there before he could be shipped home - was going to be a sizeable part of the movie.

But the global economic crisis upended the film's budget. Though it may have lost a European location shoot, it gained time for Barry to tell Ed's story.

Seeing that early footage, Henderson said he knew the less ambitious film still had potential and it convinced him to still sign up.

"Tony did an amazing job and I think the success of the film hinged on the actor's ability to do that realistically and he did that almost impossibly well. There are moments there as an actor you think: 'How did he do that? 'So that is what gave me a huge amount of confidence in the project."

This was the first time Henderson had worked in New Zealand in 15 years and it was his first role in a local movie. When his part in the film was effectively reduced, he said he didn't hesitate to stay with the project.

"This was such a quintessential New Zealand story that it just called me home in a way that nothing before that ever had. I just had to do it regardless of what my involvement was.

"I had a number of emotional moments on and off the set because it was a big deal for me to come home after that long and be involved with something so meaningful."

Of course, of Barry's nearly 60 films, many of them have had him adapting the vowels of his dry delivery in New Zealand films.

He also appeared in seminal 70s NZ sitcom Buck House, a show which proved a springboard for talents as diverse as John Clarke and Paul Holmes.

His other Kiwi credits over the years have include Beyond Reasonable Doubt, Pallet on the Floor, and Old Scores (in which he played the captain of the All Blacks reunited years later rematched with their Welsh counterparts). But Barry's honorary citizenship here dates back to Geoff Murphy's 1981 road movie.

Talking of which, and to wrap up - Martin, seeing you've finally made a New Zealand film, a Kiwi movie trivia question. Complete this famous line from a famous movie starring your mate on the other line: "I'm taking this bloody car to ...

Henderson: "Oh shit ... oh man ..."

Barry: "Way down south Marty ..."

Henderson: "Invercargill!"

Well done.

"I was going to say Bluff."

LOWDOWN
Who: Martin Henderson and Tony Barry, who play Ed Preston at different ages in Home By Christmas
Where and when: Advance screenings at cinemas this weekend, opens on Thursday.