By Nick Thomas
It’s been 35 years since Paul Hogan unleashed the iconic character of rugged reptile wrestling Mick Dundee onto the world in the 80s hit film “Crocodile Dundee” and two sequels. Hogan returned last December – via digital download in the U.S. – in “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” released on Blu-ray/DVD February 16.
The Aussie actor is quick to point out that “Mr. Dundee” is not another Dundee movie, but a self-parody where the quiet-living Hogan (starring as himself) falls afoul of a series of ill-fated self-inflicted blunders that snowball, sullying his good reputation. The film also takes a gentle jab at celebrity culture and social media.
“But it’s not a deep meaningful movie, just a bit of fun,” said Hogan from his Los Angeles home. “While it pokes fun at Hollywood rules and how social media through the modern online community can give you a reputation that you don’t deserve, it’s mostly aimed at me.”
The screenplay, written by longtime collaborator Dean Murphy, is mostly fantasy sprinkled with factual tidbits about the real Hogan. Many more facts about Hogan’s life and career are recounted in his autobiography, “The Tap-Dancing Knife Thrower: My Life (without the boring bits),” published last year.
While the book has been highly praised, critics were not so generous when “The Very Excellent Mr. Dundee” was first released last year. No surprise that didn’t bother the unflappable Hogan. “I ignored it, you just take it as it comes.”
Critics were much kinder when “Crocodile Dundee” was released in 1986 to international acclaim. “Its impact was staggering and it turned out to be the most successful independent movie ever,” said Hogan.
The original film yielded one scene destined for cinematic comedy history where Hogan defensively brandishes that giant hunting knife on the streets of New York City.
“I’ve still got the original knife, safe in a bank,” said Hogan. “We also had rubber and wooden ones for various scenes, but I co-designed the original. It might be worth a bit of money to a collector now!”
Then there was the heart-stopping scene where Hogan’s love interest, played by Linda Kozlowski, encounters a huge crocodile.
“That was mechanical, but there were real crocs in the water during filming,” he recalled. “We had guys up trees with rifles just in case one came along and ruined everything.”
So did Hogan consider asking Kozlowski, his co-star and former wife, to take a role in the new film?
“No, she’s given up acting,” he said. “I see Linda a lot and we’re still friends. She was living in Morocco for a while but now is back in LA.”
Despite all the money and fame his Dundee character generated, Hogan has remained grounded, unpretentious, and largely distanced from the Hollywood scene.
“I never really fitted in,” he admitted. “After the success of Dundee, I received all sorts of script offers, good and bad. But I wasn’t interested in becoming an actor for hire. My joy was seeing something that I wrote come to life on the screen.”
While fans may be disappointed that the new movie only features a luckless Hogan as himself, the spirit of Mick Dundee lingers throughout the film. Now 81, however, Hogan has no plans to resurrect the character.
“The original worked fine. I’d like to just leave it alone now.”
Nick Thomas teaches at Auburn University at Montgomery, Ala., and has written features, columns, and interviews for over 850 newspapers and magazines.