From Fists to Films… Artist Profile: John Boxer

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By: Aaron Webb

What did Johnny Boxer, aka Bobo the psychotic chef from SBS series Fat Pizza, do before acting?

“I robbed banks.” He growls, matter-of-factly.

“I robbed banks to fund a certain lifestyle… chicks, ya know? Now I’m getting some good work as an actor, I don’t need to anymore.” He grins.

I’m not sure if he’s joking or not. And even though my journalistic-integrity-cup overfloweth, I’m not sure I want to find out.

After his physical presence and crushing handshake, one of the most striking things I notice about Boxer is his voice. Imagine a science project splicing Jack Thompson and Russell Crowe’s DNA together, then bathing the resulting human in excessive testosterone levels whilst making it eat limestone, smoke asbestos and gargle anti-freeze for fifty years. To give you some idea; he growls.

As we sit over lunch at the Vineyard, my intimidated-ness dissipates. Because, as well as being a hard man, Boxer is also a perfect gentleman.

“So where’d you come from?” I ask.

He tells me he grew up in the western suburbs of Sydney, where despite his image now, he was dux of his year, and was state-level for water-polo, athletics, cross-country, league, union, and boxed with the local PCYC “Police Boys” on weekends.

“So why aren’t you like, a corporate take-over suit, or a Colonel in the SAS?” I ask.

Three days after finishing his final exams, he was involved in a motorcycle accident which put him in hospital for nine months, the first three of which he was in a coma.

“Ah.”

After recovering he kept boxing. Working as a labourer initially, he got a gig at a strip club doing the light show production, before being promoted to security supervisor over a few venues.

When he was hired as the GM of the famous Coogee Bay Hotel, he acquired the nickname “Roadhouse” after the Patrick Swayze movie.

“And that made you want to act?”

“Nah mate, I’d always been interested but after getting cast in a stage show at the Opera House, I thought I must be alright at it.”

He got early work in a number of Aussie TV shows including Home & Away, Police Rescue and E-Street, where he was cast for one day’s filming, and booked for eight weeks the following day. A few film roles followed but as I listen I can’t help but interrupt to ask how he got the gig as Bobo.

“That was a pisser, mate.” He tells me.

He was to meet Paul Fenech and his production crew at the King’s Cross Hotel, where he knew the girls behind the bar. As soon as he walked in, they looked at him desperately, as there were three ‘knuckleheads’, pushing schooner glasses off their table for a laugh, and no security on. To help the staff out, he walked over and said:

“You boys are a bit messy, so it’s time to go. You’re welcome back tomorrow.”

Then to make the point, he leaned in, and said under his breath:

“But if you want to play, I’ll f-cking hurt ya.”

Two got the message and left. The last guy grabbed his drink, leaned back, and said: “Nah.”

Boxer dragged him out of the bar and down the four steps to the door. After he’d turned and walked back up, he heard the foot falls as this bloke came back to attack him. He counted three steps while facing away, then spun and right-crossed him through the chin as this bloke hit the fourth.

“He was asleep a foot in the air, and after he hit the ground, he farted. Funniest thing I ever seen.”

Paul Fenech walked up, shook his hand and said: “Love your work.”

Fat Pizza was his break. He’s recently finished filming a new feature with Ewen MacGregor, and is the villain in the upcoming Baz Luhrmann picture, The Great Gatsby, opposite Leonardo Di Caprio.

I ask what Di Caprio’s like.

“Good bloke.” He says. “Doesn’t like paparazzi though.”

I press him. Whilst trying to leave a hotel in Sydney, the SUV that Di Caprio, Joel Edgerton and others were in was blocked at the gates by a swarm of photographers. The vehicle’s windows were so tinted that no-one could see inside, so Boxer came up with a plan. He fell out of the car as if drunk, lurched up to the hotel gates and opened them. The snapping photographers followed him down the road as he stumbled away, allowing the SUV to exit the hotel. As soon as it was clear, Boxer ran back and jumped in, shouting “Thanks for coming!” to the collectively duped media, and they sped off.

“Nice decoy”, I say. “What did Leo make of it?”

He just said: “You da man, Jaaaahnny.”

So where’s next for Johnny Boxer? Having got some traction in the States, there’s an upcoming string of releases he’s featured in, including; ‘Bedlam’, ‘Short Beach’, and ‘Pros and Ex-Cons’. A new series of Fat Pizza is also about to commence filming, which I don’t mind telling him I wee a little bit every day in anticipation of.

“Bobo’s back!” I cry.

“Yeah mate, and he’s more mental than ever!” Boxer responds.

And with our interview over, he bids me farewell, walks out, throws some random bird over his shoulder and asks her: “What are you doing tonight, sweetcheeks?”  Seriously.

‘The Great Gatsby’ is released nationally on the 30th of May.

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