This was the second film of three movies that actress Judy Davis was seen in on Australian screens in a year when it opened in November 1981. Davis was seen first in Winter of Our Dreams (1981) which launched July/August 1981 and then after this film was seen also in Heatwave (1982) which debuted in March 1982.
This movie was based on the criminal exploits of con-man and bank robber Carl Synnerdahl. The character name of Martin Stang (played by John Hargreaves) was based on Synnerdahl but was a fictional character. Synnerdahl was famous for the ruse of pretending to go blind to get off lightly from his prison sentence and get an earlier release. Synnerdahl then continued with this deception whilst serving his gaol term. This deceit forms the basis of this film's high-concept and story.
Promotional material for this film such as movie posters formed a pair of hand-cuffs out of the two letter "O"'s in this film's 'Hoodwink' title logo. This was actually the second Australian film to do this around 1980-1981, the other movie being Touch and Go (1980).
Of this film's eight Australian Film Institute (AFI) Award nominations including Best Director, Best Actor and Best Screenplay, Judy Davis won the only one, for Best Supporting Actress. In this 1981 year that Davis was nominated for this movie, she also won the Best Actress AFI Award for Winter of Our Dreams (1981). Coincidentally, her AFI Award for that film was it's only win (out of seven noms) as well.
First ever Australian Film Institute (AFI) Award acting nomination for actor John Hargreaves. Hargreaves did not win Best Actor for this film but through his career he was nominated six times and won three.
This film is notable for showing actor John Hargreaves, who is playing a character pretending to be blind, wearing a pair of sunglasses with shaving-cream bullseye targets foamed on them. This shot from the movie, is arguably, the film's most striking image, and has been used on movie posters as well as video & DVD covers for this film.
Reportedly, four Australian film directors turned down working on this Australian movie. They were Bruce Beresford, Michael Thornhill, Phil Noyce and Esben Storm. All these directors felt that the film's screenplay had structural problems, the latter two actually worked on the script for a time.
Producer Errol Sullivan once said of this film: "We should have realized that Phil [Noyce], Esben [Storm] and the others [Bruce Beresford and Michael Thornhill] were right. But I was committed to the story, and we'd put our own money into the development, so we decided to muscle it through and hire a foreign director [Claude Whatham]. In hindsight, that was a mistake."
The hiring of British director Claude Whatham for this Australian movie feature caused quite a ruckus in Australian director circles. The recruiting of Whatham was approved by the relevant Australian union, the Australian Theatrical and Amusement Employee's Association (ATAEA). However, this caused controversy amongst a number of Australian film directors even though some of them, had ironically, turned down offers to direct the film. They banded together and formed a new body called The Australian Feature Film Director's Association (AFFDA) and elected Gillian Armstrong as its Chairperson. During this era, the importation of foreign personnel on film projects often caused controversy, mostly in acting areas, but this was an instance where a dispute occurred with a director. Recently, the hiring of British director David Hemmings to direct the Australian film The Survivor (1981) had set the ground shaky. Ironically, during earlier eras, it was not uncommon for a British director to direct a film in Australia during the 1950s and 1960s when Australia really didn't have a film industry until the revival during the 1970s. As such, due to the development of the Australian Film Industry during the 1970s, the hiring of a British director in the early 1980s was arguably seen as a step backwards. The first action of the AFFDA, after holding meetings in both Melbourne and Sydney, was to pass a motion that Australian feature films with major Australian government funding must be directed by Australians. Chair Armstrong wrote a letter to Australia's national newspaper, 'The National Times', and stated: "We hope in future no further permission will be granted [by ATAEA] to foreign directors without consultation with its director membership". Of the directors involved, Armstong and Phil Noyce were reportedly the most vocal, Noyce had actually turned down directing this film. In the end, AFFDA voted to allow Whatham to direct this film.
The meaning and relevance of this movie's title 'Hoodwink' is, as is it's dictionary definition, relates to a deception or a con. The ruse in the film is about a jailbird who pretends to be blind to get out of jail earlier. Interestingly, an archaic definition of 'Hoodwink' defines the word as "to blindfold".
Director Claude Whatham once said of this film: "I'm very happy the way the film has worked out. It's contemporary cinema, and apart from the entertainment values, will be a continuing showcase for the local industry".
The prison sequences seen in the film were shot at the Bathurst Gaol in Bathurst, New South Wales, Australia. The jail at the time had recently been damaged by inmates who set a fire during a rebellion in the 1970s. These riots had been the inspiration for another Australian film, Stir (1980). That film had been theatrically released about a year earlier but was not filmed at the Bathurst Gaol like this film was.
Director Claude Whatham once said of this film's lead stars Judy Davis and John Hargreaves that they are "...exceptionally talented players. They have attracted world attention - and it is easy to see why".
Geoffrey Rush: As a corrupt cop billed as Detective 1. This film is notable for being an early screen appearance for Rush who about fifteen years later went on to win a Best Actor Academy Award for Shine (1996).