Josh Thomson on the 5 roles that inspired Gary of the Pacific

This week, Gary of the Pacific opens in New Zealand as the first film starring The Project host Josh Thomson in a lead role.

At its premiere in Auckland last week, the tropical comedy was introduced as "Moana with dick jokes".

"It's about a real estate agent who inherits a sinking pacific island from his father, the chief," says Thomson.

"So he goes back to the island, takes all their resources and doesn't do very good things with it all, basically."

While he has had roles in films and TV shows including Terry Teo, Pork Pie, The Devil Dared Me To, Hounds and Short Poppies, Thomson hasn't before been the first-billed star - making the titular role of Gary a milestone in his career.

I caught up with Thomson to ask about the five roles that most influenced his performance in Gary of the Pacific.

The Emperor from Star Wars

"He has amazing lip work," says Thomson.

"His lips are just flapping around, he's not concerned about them at all. I really admire the actor Ian McDiarmid, who managed to control those lips."

Conan from Conan the Barbarian

"I am hard to understand normally, but during my fight scene I'm unintelligible. That's all down to my love of Conan the Barbarian," says Thomson.

"Arnold Schwarzenegger has some amazing sounds and I get strangled by Matt Whelan in the film, so I was channelling Arnold."

Thomson says he doesn't bite a vulture's neck in the film as Conan did, but does nuzzle a piglet.

Santino 'Sonny' Corleone from The Godfather

James Caan as Santino 'Sonny' Corleone in The Godfather

"He is in a singlet in one scene and his shoulders are the hairiest things you've ever seen," says Thomson.

"I had to do a scene with my shoulders out, which were quite hairy. People asked if I wanted to trim them down a bit but I said 'No! Let them see'. That's for James Caan."

Vladimir Harkonnen from Dune

"He's like this big sweaty globe floating around, with heaps of zits. It's just sort of disgusting," says Thomson.

"Because we filmed in Rarotonga, I was sweating everywhere. The poor costume ladies spent a lot of time trying to dry out some of my clothes. They just gave up a lot of the time."

Nomi Malone from Showgirls

"Elizabeth Berkely is a very brave performer. She gets it all out and I had to get a lot of it out," says Thomson.

"She's very informative for my acting craft - some of the time her work in Saved by the Bell, but mostly Showgirls."

Bonus pick: Joe Armstrong from American Ninja

"The way I move is very informed and measured, in a similar way to Michael Dudikoff in American Ninja," says Thomson.

"He picks up a screwdriver from a toolbox, does a dive-roll and throws it at somebody. Every time I get a Phillips screwdriver out of the toolbox, I look around just to make sure there isn't someone I need to throw it at."


Gary of the Pacific is in cinemas from Thursday, March 16.