ANH Do is cutting back on one of his favourite vices – Krispy Kreme donuts.
The Vietnamese-born Australian comedian isn’t on a health kick for another appearance on Dancing With The Stars or anything trivial like that. Instead Do is preparing for what he hopes will be the defining role of his career, playing his own father Tam in the film depiction of his best-selling autobiography The Happiest Refugee.
“When we start filming I’ll have to drop 30 kilos because I’m 85 and my dad was 55 kilos when he arrived [in Australia],” Do tells Weekender. “No more Krispy Kremes for me.”
The Happiest Refugee was published in 2010 and tells the story of Do’s family fleeing persecution in Vietnam in 1980 following the country’s bloody civil war. Do was three at the time when his family spent five days packed into a nine-metre boat with 40 people.
Eventually the family reached Malaysia, after two attacks by pirates, and were accepted as refugees by the Australian Government. The Do family settled in the south-west Sydney suburb of Yagoona.
“My parents said we’d go to whatever country takes us,” Do says. “Australia said we can come because we fought alongside Aussies in the war so my dad is walking around the refugee camp swapping his shorts and t-shirts for warm clothes from other people because he thought we were going to Austria.
“They were preparing for a cold climate, but when they touched down in Sydney it was 35 degrees.”
The Happiest Refugee won five awards, including the 2011 Australian Book of the Year and Biography of the Year, and caught the eye of Hollywood actor Russell Crowe. The Gladiator star was so moved by Do’s story he bought the book’s film rights to direct a future movie.
You grow up thinking your life’s pretty normal as it’s all you know, but then you tell the story and people think it’s amazing.Anh Do
The screenplay is currently being finalised and Do – who has previously starred in Footy Legends and Little Fish – wants to play the lead role of his father.
“I’m very excited,” he says. “I wrote a book and it’s turned into a live show and a movie one day. You grow up thinking your life’s pretty normal as it’s all you know, but then you tell the story and people think it’s amazing.”
Something a little bit different would be required to handle his role in the film.
“We’re going to start casting for a three-year-old kid to play me who must have a massive head and wonky teeth,” he says.
The live stage version of The Happiest Refugee has been selling out theatres for several years as Do’s profile has skyrocketed through his popular Ahn Does and Anh’s Brush With Fame TV shows. The latter has exposed Do’s artistic prowess as he’s painted well-known personalities like controversial radio star Kyle Sandilands and polarising boxer Anthony Mundine.
Do has considered incorporating painting into his live comedy shows, but admits it would be too problematic.
“I would do it if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s touch and go,” he says. “With 1000 people watching I think there would be too much pressure. When I’m with Kyle Sandilands and I say ‘I’ve got to start this again, brother’ it’s cool, but not with 1000 people watching.”
Anh Do’s live stage adaption of The Happiest Refugee returns to Newcastle’s Civic Theatre on March 25.