Photos by Matt Nettheim, Copyright_ Stormy Productions Pty Ltd.

When acclaimed Pitjantjatjara actor Trevor Jamieson took on the role of Fingerbone Bill in the new version of the classic film Storm Boy, he learnt to do the pelican dance and apply body paint in the way of the Ngarrindjeri.

Jamieson, 42, who is from Western Australia, says it was important to capture the customs of the Ngarrindjeri who are the Traditional Owners of the Coorong in South Australia where the film is set and was filmed.

Respected Ngarrindjeri elder Uncle Moogy Sumner and other community members were on hand to help him.

“I sat down and spent a lot of time learning Ngarrindjeri language but also listening to stories that are so important,” Jamieson says. “To get wisdom, the first thing to do is be silent. The second is to listen.”

Jamieson says his experiences from when he was young and growing up in WA’s Goldfields made learning the pelican dance easy.

“When my grandfather did ceremony he’d say, ‘You are going to see this once, when you see what we do you’ve got to do what we do, you’ll probably never get to see this again.’”

The world premiere of Storm Boy — a remake of the 1976 original — was held in Adelaide on Sunday night. A red carpet premiere will also be held in Sydney on Thursday night ahead of the film’s national release on January 17.

The film is based on author Colin Thiele’s 1964 children’s story about a boy, his pelican and his relationships with his father, the bird and an old man called Fingerbone.

Queensland youngster Finn Little plays Storm Boy and the film features an all-star cast of Jai Courtney as his father, Hideaway Tom; Jamieson; and Geoffrey Rush as the boy in later life.

The 1970s film shot legendary Indigenous actor David Gulpilil to fame in the role as the original Fingerbone. He makes a cameo appearance in the new film as Fingerbone’s father.

Jamieson, who has played Fingerbone in stage versions of Storm Boy, paid tribute to Gulpilil, saying the actor has been his screen hero.

“I’ve always wanted to play the role,” Jamieson says. “I’ve been in the industry for 25 years waiting for an opportunity like that. Not only because of the character, because of David Gulpilil.”

“He’s amazing in the original film. He has that electrifying presence and charisma about him.”

“Every time he comes in front of the camera he demands people’s attention. He’s one of our iconic people. I was quite chuffed when I found out he was going to play a cameo role in this …”

“We sat down with him and he was generous in giving his time.”

“When I learnt afterwards that his totem is the pelican … it was interesting to hear from his life. What he’s done from the industry. I’ve always tried to model myself like him.”

By Wendy Caccetta