Australian Story, 4th March 2002
Hi, I'm Nicole Kidman, and I am here tonight to introduce the Australian Story on a man called Kerry Warn, who happens to be one of my best friends - a person I adore. He, has worked with me on a number of films and we've travelled the world together. We did Eyes Wide Shut together, we did The Hours - which is coming out - The Others. He grew up in Australia. He now lives in London. But he has a really, really interesting life story and I hope you enjoy hearing about it.
KERRY WARN: There was years I was embarrassed about being a hairdresser. I thought, Oh, God, I wish I could do something... I wish I'd studied medicine, I wish I had the brains. I wish I could save people's lives, you know? I wish I could do something that means a little bit more to humanity." And then a friend of mine said, "You actually do, in your way. "You make people feel great." You know, if they like what you're doing, they feel great. They forget about their aches and their pains and their worries and their troubles, even if it's just for a momentary thing.
NICOLE KIDMAN: I think being an Australian makes you unique in terms of working internationally. So therefore, if you find somebody else that you really like that happens to be the same nationality as you and happens to be, you know, what I consider the best hairdresser in the world - wow - then, there's a friendship, there's a professional respect. And, you know, I'd do anything for him.
KERRY WARN: I've always wanted to be pretty transient, you know, and I've always wanted to be able to sort of, almost like the gypsy in me always wants to be able to run. Maybe, maybe it was the constant thing of getting away as a child to go and do other things that has still left over.
NICOLE KIDMAN: His stories as a kid, when he was growing up in Australia and the stories he has about his family - I mean, it's really unusual and I think that's why these things are so great. I mean, you hear about my life, and you go, "Oh, she did well." He's just as much a success story. He's the country boy that made good, you know.
BEVERLY MEAD, Mt Barker local: Mt Barker is situated approximately 400km south of Perth and basically it's a typical West Australian country town. Warn's Bakery would be one of the social hubs of Mt Barker. It was the best place for people to get their bread, the best pies, and probably the best gossip, because it was a good place to catch up with everyone. Everyone knew the Warn family, not only from the bakery point of view, but also because they were very much involved in sport in the town, in racing and football and all the country sporting events that people get involved in.
KERRY WARN: I have three sisters and two brothers, and all of us worked in the family business. None of us got away with anything, actually. I didn't really like the bakehouse work. I liked the more upfront thing. I liked, like my father said, being in the limelight a bit.
ROSS WARN, brother: He wasn't into football or cricket or horses or that. We used to call him a girl, you know, because the things those days was if you couldn't play footy or go to the pub and have a fight, you weren't worth two bob, you know. But he was always different.
KERRY WARN: I don't know why I was fascinated with classical ballet. That's when I really had to go to work on my mother. I said, "I'll do 'x' amount of housework if you let me study ballet."
NICOLE KIDMAN: He would tell me this story - it makes me cry. He'd go to the ballet class and he was six years old. Well, that's unusual for a young boy, saying, hey, I want to learn ballet, particularly in a country town in Australia, you know. He said there were all girls and him. And that takes a lot of guts. It says something about his personality and how he is tenacious and he knows what he wants to do. And he had guts at a really young age, you know. For a six-year-old to do that - it touches me.
KERRY WARN: Then suddenly my father comes home from the pub. He's found out... there's this kid, this boy, studying ballet. What in the hell was going on? And I couldn't understand what all the drama was, but, you know, looking back, poor thing must have been so embarrassed, standing up there with his mates and someone says, "Oh, your son's in the same ballet class as my daughter." So he didn't have a very good night in the pub that night. I don't think so, anyway.
OK, so we decided that if I played football as well - Australian Rules - I was allowed to study ballet.
ERNEST GRADY, first employer: In the late sixties most guys were pretty rugged, tough Aussie bronzed heroes type of guys, and anybody that followed the arts or was keen on doing hair or whatever sort of had a bit of a stigma about it.
KERRY WARN: My poor Father, going through again the "ballet class" syndrome. "Can't you do something normal? Just once in your life, just do something normal!" You know, I remember these lectures. "Do you have to always do something that's so ridiculous?"
NICOLE KIDMAN: I first met Kerry because Stanley Kubrick said that he'd heard of this really talented hairdresser in London that he wanted to use on Eyes Wide Shut. And Tom and I were, you know, saying, "OK, great. Whoever you want to use, Stanley." And so...and Stanley said, "No, but I want you to meet him first." And he came into the house that we were staying at, and I heard his accent and I went, "You're Australian!" And I couldn't believe that out of, you know, the whole world, Stanley had chosen this Australian hairdresser. And it wasn't because of his nationality, but it was because he was the best of the best.
KERRY WARN: Stanley was more worried about me, I think - not my work - more worried about me being Australian than anything else, because he thought I might affect Nicole's accent for the film because her character was American. And he said, "But your accent is sort of light. I think... I don't think it'll be a problem here. I don't think we got a problem, you know." Then it was arranged to go and have a hair test with Tom and Nicole. Stanley called me up and said, "Kerry, you know, I want her hair curly. I like all those curls," and things like this. I did it curly and then he looked. He said, "That's great. Yeah, fine." I said, "Can I just do one thing, Stanley? Can I put it up?" He says, "Why?" I said, "Well, the most beautiful part about Nicole, I think, is her jaw and her neck and her shoulders. It's incredible, all this part." And I said, "With her hair down you lose a lot of it." So I pinned it up. He said, "That's it." He almost wouldn't let us put it down for the film. So I think he liked what I did for her.
NICOLE KIDMAN: I'm just madly in love with him. No - I think he just... he has an understanding of character. And as an actor, when you're working, it's not as much about his work or the hair as much as it is about creating a character.
KERRY WARN: There's a movie we did called The Others. As the character's going on, you know, she gets a little bit more harassed. How do you make hair look paranoid? And, you know, you just hope the actor can make it look paranoid.
NICOLE KIDMAN: He also just has talent, and how do you explain talent? It just is what it is. And he knows what colour your hair should be, what... how it should look, how it should behave. He knows how to change the texture. I mean... And it's hard, that's actually hard, and it's an art form in its own way.
KERRY WARN: With hair and make-up and clothing it's the dress-up aspect, I think, that always attracts me. It's the transformation from one character to another character that's always been the big inspiration, anyway, in whatever I've done in my career.
GLORIA JOHNSTONE, sister: I started hairdressing when I left school at 14, and Kerry would often come up to the salon and, watch what was going on. He seemed very interested in it then, you know.
KERRY WARN: To see these great-looking women doing hair... this is a glamorous-looking profession, I thought. I didn't realise the hard work and the heartache and the pain you had to go... No, no, it's not really. But, no - it was like a little oasis of beauty.
ERNEST GRADY: He was this kid with his hair all brushed forward with a massive, great big smile, tall and skinny, half-masted pants, white socks and big feet. I've never seen anything like it.
KERRY WARN: I think that's when the stubbornness came in. I just sort of, persisted. And, you know - and I'm sure we've all done it in our lives - just wear your parents down until you get what you need. You know, 'cause sometimes they take a bit of convincing.
ERNEST GRADY: Kerry's father Fred discovered that I was a hairdresser and had just opened a hairdressing salon in King Street, Perth. And he said, "This is great. I have a son that I would like you to give him a trial as a hairdresser." "I'd like to clarify this," he said. "I'm not asking you just to trial him. I'm saying, 'Put him on', because I'm quite happy to pay his pay as long as you don't send him back."
PAM THOMAS, friend: My first impressions of Kerry are that he was a really fun person and he had his wild side and his temperamental side. I've seen tail combs fly across the salon.
ERNEST GRADY: When we get together - when Kerry comes back to Perth - and have a party, a reunion, they are quite wild. It's quite fun sometimes to let your mind slip back to that era and that time.
PAM THOMAS: We had quite a few ladies of the night come in, which were very colourful people, and Kerry formed a relationship with these people. So he used to pretty well, on a constant basis - pretty well every night - go to the brothels of Perth and, do the hair of the ladies. And obviously he made quite a bit of money doing this.
KERRY WARN: They were great clients. They were the only people that ever tipped. And then, obviously, I was paid cash. There was a little travel agent two doors down from the salon. So any spare cash I had I would pay off my airfare to London.
It's very hard to see bad in people that are good to you. They looked after me so well and were great friends to me. And, I mean, it's a world that I didn't know, certainly, growing up in the country.
GEOFF WARN: I guess what happens with a lot of people in WA, being a small community - well, it certainly was back when Kerry was a youngster - is that everything is given to us from the outside world. So I guess it portrays this exotic image that things are spectacularly interesting overseas and, by comparison, dull here. So that must have been a magnet to Kerry.
To step from Perth hairdressing into the world of some of the people he was hairdressing for... somehow Kerry's been able to live in that world for, you know, 30 years or longer, possibly, and not lose his value and not be a hopeless drunk and full of baggage and a drug addict and all those sorts of things. He's managed somehow to get through all that. So I guess that would be that country background and understanding that where he was stepping into was just another stage set.
KERRY WARN: I like to almost, sometimes, be thrown in at the deep end and have to swim, and then I find that's creative because you're going to do whatever you can get to do to make it work, whether it's... Like, you think, "Oh, what in the hell am I doing here? I must be insane." But you'll try... you'll get there. I guess the stubborn side will kick in and say, "I'm going to make this. I'm going to get it right. I'm going to do it the best I possibly can. It's not going to get the better of me."
ERNEST GRADY: Kerry's career can be followed through magazines and can be followed through movies. Very few people can create. Most people follow. Kerry creates.
BEVERLY MEAD: I began to notice over the years that I would pick up a magazine - it could be 'Tattler', it could be 'Harpers and Queen', British 'Elle', British 'Vogue' - and quite often there would be a reference to Kerry in Paris, London, New York, working with the supermodels. And I soon realised that he was at the very top of his craft and had become incredibly successful. He also, of course, worked with Tom Cruise on 'Mission Impossible'.
KERRY WARN: You know, even though I love beauty and I've made a career of making... ..SUPPOSEDLY making people look good, whatever, I don't tell people they're beautiful all the time. I'm tough, I'm tough. I don't tell... you know... I will sit and get emotional about a lot of things in... like, I'll go to the theatre and see someone play the violin beautifully. To me, that's emotional.
BEVERLY MEAD: I think it's sad, in a way, that Kerry isn't better known in Mt Barker. I feel that if he'd achieved what he has in another field, perhaps in the sporting arena, or if he'd been as successful as a cricketer or a golf or a tennis player, he'd be a local legend in Mt Barker. I'm sure that there'd be sporting ovals named after him, probably buildings named after him. I think that Kerry would be an inspiration to anyone who might want to do something a little out of the ordinary. Kerry is just a classic example that you can achieve anything if you've got that passion and that dedication.
NICOLE KIDMAN: He's so good at what he does. He's critical, but only with constructive criticism.
KERRY WARN: Yeah, I think it's important to actually like and enjoy the people you're working with. I think it's very hard to do something with someone you don't like. That's the most difficult thing in the world, and I actually couldn't put myself through it. If I don't enjoy being around or working with those people I can't give them 100 percent. And if I can't give them 100 percent, then I think I'm the wrong person for the job.
NICOLE KIDMAN: Oh, just one of my best friends, you know. And also, just not having to worry. I mean, I sit down in the chair. He can do my hair like that, in, like, 20 minutes. He's so quick. And, um, so I never even have to really think about it. I can stagger out of bed having gotten four hours sleep and he can, you know, pull me together, pretty quickly. Because I can't sit still for very long. I hate sitting in a chair. I hate having make-up and hair done. It bores me. So, he works really fast and he's really decisive. And it would be awful not having him on a movie. I couldn't imagine it.
MARLENE ASHTON, sister: Apart from - I mean, I know he's mixed with lots of famous people, but we have met Tom and Nicole when they were together. Kerry was over in Sydney. I went over, and my two daughters. We stayed in Sydney there with him for a week. It was wonderful.
KERRY WARN: I have a very good relationship with my sisters... I think! They might have a different opinion. No, I think we get on very well. I think the important thing is that we've grown up with great humour. I don't think what I do affects them very much. I don't even know whether they actually know what I do. They know I do hair, of course. It's been rammed down their poor throats. I mean, yes, they know I work on films and things but it's not part of their lives, what I do.
GLORIA JOHNSTONE, sister: Well, when Kerry comes back to town it's always full-on, like a tornado when he's around. He's just.. Oh, you know, he can't really wind down. Oh, he can wind down, but he loves to see everybody in five minutes and catch up with everybody.
KERRY WARN: I love to come home because it's a little bit more reality than a film set and hotel rooms and things. I miss them, but I think in a way our relationships are better because I'm not there, because I think I would... Shirley said to me once - my sister - she said, "I'm always happy to see you, but I'm always happy to see you go." I come in, stir up things, do this, do that, and then leave.
It's hard to go back, not physically hard to be there. Dad never really said much, you know. He sort of, ah... I think he'd gotten over the embarrassment. I bloody hope so. I think he felt he had more confidence in me and he felt like I could deal with situations maybe because I'd been away, lived another life. I hadn't lived around home. I was always here, basically, as a kid and things, so... a lot of good memories.
SHIRLEY RICHARDSON, sister: Kerry'd come home a lot and he was very good to Mum and Dad in the later years. He used to look after them. Dad was very proud of what Kerry was doing. He didn't say much, because he never did, but I think deep down he was, yes.
KERRY WARN: I wasn't a drug addict. I didn't sort of actually ruin my life, which they thought I was going to. At one point they thought I was making a mess of things. Ah, I hope he was proud.
NICOLE KIDMAN: Gosh. We've travelled the world. But we worked on the Kubrick movie for two years. That's where we really got to know each other. When you see somebody every day for that amount of time, you know, early in the morning... and then late at night. So I know him really, really well. He's...he's one of the dearest people because he has, compassion and he has empathy. I mean, he's the sort of person that you tell him a story and his eyes will well up with tears, and that means that he's emotional and I like emotional people. I think people that have access to their emotions are very open and I like being around that.
KERRY WARN: Mum was in hospital for many years and Dad was at home, and Dad was suffering from Parkinson's. When Mum passed away, that's when I felt like I should go home and he said, "No, no." He said, "We had our lives - you should have yours." Anyway, I got this phone call to say that Dad was in hospital. I spoke to the sister in the hospital. She said to me she didn't think Dad would make it through the night. I was at work. I was on a photographic shoot in London. Got a flight that night and flew straight from London to Singapore on to Perth. By the time I got to Singapore Dad had died. He didn't make it. My sister came and picked me up. We drove up to Barker... and... I literally, sort of like within half an hour of me arriving, the priest was there to sort of talk about what we were going to do. And, and apparently Dad had said to my brothers and sisters that... not to do anything before I got home because I knew exactly what to do, which... I guess, is a great compliment, I guess.
When things are over, you know, after a parent or a loved one dies or something like this, you know, you forget the pain, you forget the heartache and you remember the good times. And you do remember the good times.
GEOFF WARN, cousin: I'm sure his background has given him the confidence to step out on his own, but always having the anchor of a welcome family, and that's very evident when he comes back to Perth and the family all get together and talk and drink and celebrations. When he visits back to Perth he's immediately accepted and joins in and has great fun.
KERRY WARN: You always think - I don't know, I think it's a thing in life - you always think that you're going to get found out, that you're really not that good at what you do. I don't know. I suppose everybody goes through that. You know, that you've actually fooled them for many years but you're going to get caught. Are they going to find out that you're not really a great hairdresser - they just THINK you are?
ROSS WARN: I think Kerry's got most of his 'go' from Mum and Dad, you know. Like, they were workaholics and I think that was instilled from day one, you know. And, you know, congratulations to him, you know. He's done a big job for where he's come from, yeah. Like, he's come from nowhere, so you've got to give that to the bloke. You've got to give it to him.
Kerry Warn has just finished working in Sweden with Nicole Kidman on her latest film. He will 'do' her hair for the Academy Awards later this month.
"I want to walk through life with grace and dignity and generosity and never take it all for granted."
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