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EXCLUSIVE: Matt Day and Kirsty Thomson reveal what makes their marriage tick

“We’re still having fun…”

The year was 1994 and a little Australian film called Muriel’s Wedding was about to be released. For Matt Day – who had cobbled together enough work to get by after leaving a gig as the resident teenage heartthrob on A Country Practice a few years earlier – it was his debut film role.

And he didn’t put much stock in it being successful.

“I remember at the time going, ‘Oh, it’s about a girl obsessed with ABBA who is a liar and a bit depressed’,” he says. “‘Who is going to want to see this?’”

Matt played Brice, an awkward 20-something who, to be close to his crush (Toni Collette’s titular character, Muriel), is a constant visitor at the video store she works in. Little did he know that Muriel’s Wedding would not only kickstart an incredible career but also make for a classic “meet cute” story with his future wife, Kirsty Thomson.

“Our eyes locked across a crowded room,” Kirsty tells The Weekly of their meeting in a bar. “At the time, Matt lived in Melbourne and I lived in Sydney. When he got back to Melbourne he desperately wanted to get in touch. And the only thing he could remember about me was that I worked in a video store.”

“So I tracked down the video store where Kirsty worked,” Matt interjects, laughing at the way Muriel echoed in his own life. “I called them up and asked if she worked there and the guy said, ‘Oh no, she doesn’t work here anymore … But I’ve got her number.’ I was like, ‘Great!’”

“I don’t think you’re supposed to hand out numbers like that, but it was the ’90s,” Kirsty says in mock horror. “Next year we’ll have been married 25 years.”

From that first fateful meeting, laughter has formed the foundation of their relationship.

“My job is very stressful, and I can have panicky or emotional moments, but Matt’s very good at being able to make me see a bit of perspective and not worry too much about things,” Kirsty, who is the executive producer of Nine’s 60 Minutes, explains.

“I think we’re very good at that for each other,” Matt adds. “We both are good at talking each other off the ledge.”

Did they know they’d found that special someone, we ask, when they first met? “Eh,” they say simultaneously while shrugging their shoulders, prompting another burst of laughter.

Matt Day and Kirsty Thomson.
Photography: Will Horner. Styling: Rebecca Rac.

“We were very young,” Kirsty says. “We just kept having fun and we’re still doing that,” adds Matt. “It just kind of worked.”

Their first date was at a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds concert. Hardly romantic, Matt jokes.

But it landed him the girl and soon they were making a long-distance relationship work. As Matt began filming a string of hit movies off the back of the success of Muriel’s Wedding, Kirsty moved to Bathurst to do her master’s degree in journalism.

After graduating, she scored a job in Canberra as a political reporter for Channel Nine and the pair took their love on the road.

“We used to meet halfway [between Sydney and Canberra] on a Friday night in Bowral,” she says. “Then one night Matt drove down the Hume and proposed over the intercom at my apartment. He said, ‘I’ve driven all the way down here because I want to ask you to marry me.’ And I said, ‘Yes, come upstairs.’ And no, there was no ring.”

“We’re not particularly conventional,” Matt says with a smile. “We never have been. In fact, we always forget our anniversary, like clockwork. Every year.”

The pair had a trip to London coming up, the tickets were booked. So, rather than waste time planning a big wedding, they figured they’d make the UK trip their honeymoon. On a Thursday lunchtime, they held a low-key wedding in Kirsty’s mother’s backyard in Sydney’s Balmain.

“There were about 10 people there,” Matt says. “More than that,” Kirsty laughs. “There were about 15! And from there we went straight to the airport and had our honeymoon in London. Then we moved there a year after that.”

Matt’s follow-up to Muriel’s Wedding was low-budget 1996 film Love and Other Catastrophes, which centred on a group of Melbourne film studies students.

Once again he underestimated the impact it would have. “I had no idea that would take off – a film we made for $20,000,” he says with a laugh.

It was bought by Fox in the US and soon the cast – which included Frances O’Connor, Radha Mitchell and Alice Garner – were being flown around the world, including to the Venice Film Festival, to promote it.

The following year, he and Frances were on another world tour after reuniting for crime caper Kiss or Kill.

“Those memories are amazing,” he says now of that heady time in the late ’90s when he seemed to be in every noteworthy Australian film. “And I’m still friends with a lot of those people. Fran was out here shooting recently and she came over. There’s that affinity with someone who is connected very intimately with your youth, with these very intense experiences.”

It was this success at home that emboldened the pair to try their luck in London as a new decade dawned.

Matt Day and Kirsty Thomson.
Photography: Will Horner. Styling: Rebecca Rac.

“I’d had a good string of films,” he says, “which meant I could get a good agent over there. I went over for a recce and then carved out a career as a jobbing actor over there. I mean, the first job I got was in [2002 miniseries] Shackleton with Kenneth Branagh, which was pretty crazy. I spent a month on an icebreaker off the coast of Greenland with him and a hundred other cast and crew. That was a good introduction. It’s a good itch for an Australian actor to scratch, to spend some time overseas.”

Kirsty was no slouch when it came to finding a top job either. First, she started working for TV news company ITN. Then she was appointed as the first ever female news editor at Sky. And her promotion to that coveted position was received the day she was heading off on maternity leave with their first child, Jackson.

“I had six months off with Jackson and then went back to work full-time.”

Matt’s job often took him around the world but together they juggled work and raising a family. “I actually don’t know how we did it,” Kirsty says with a touch of bemusement. “A lot of childcare – it was cheaper then.”

“Actors’ hours are pretty flexible,” Matt adds. “I don’t think I could do the job I do if Matt had a full-time job as well,” concedes Kirsty. “It helps that he is either here or not here. And available. He’s very involved with the kids, so I think that’s how we make it work.”

Plus, while they may not have had family in the UK, they did have firm friends – including Matt’s constant co-star, Frances O’Connor.

“Fran and I had our babies in London two days apart, so the two boys are really good friends,” says Kirsty. “And even when we moved back to Australia. They’ve just turned 18 this year, which has been so nice.”

That move back to our shores came after eight UK winters. “I missed my mum,” Kirsty admits. “We were worried they weren’t getting enough grandparent time.”

“And sunlight,” Matt interjects. “So we came back.”

Five years after Jackson – and over two after returning to Australia – came second son Rufus. While Kirsty jokes that his conception was timed to avoid having to pay for two lots of childcare at the same time, the age gap seems to have worked for the family.

The two boys are very close and have happily joined in the merriment their parents thrive on, as well as inheriting their love of travel.

“It just meant we had to buy a travel cot for a couple of years,” Matt says. “We’re not particularly serious people. We’ve employed our usual fly-by-the-seat approach – make it up as we go along.”

“We just always make sure we laugh at everything,” Kirsty adds of parenting two boys. “It’s been good fun.”

Matt Day and Kirsty Thomson.
Photography: Will Horner. Styling: Rebecca Rac.

No doubt, at the time of their return to home shores, this good cheer might have been helped by the fact they both hit the ground running. “I was lucky,” Matt says to his wife with a smile, “you were smart.”

Kirsty returned to Nine, where she’d eventually become the head of Nine’s masthead current affairs show. Matt landed a lead in acclaimed Foxtel drama Tangle, which reunited him with another old co-star, Ben Mendelsohn. There followed another stream of TV and film hits.

“The first professional job I did was when I was 12,” he says of a full-circle moment he experienced on the Tangle set. “I had three lines in a TV show, Fame and Misfortune. I was a gang member. And the leader of our gang was Ben. I remember this scene where we attacked some kid and then his sister came out and beat us up with a baseball bat. That was Kylie Minogue.

“You’re always crossing paths with people in this industry, and I often come across other ’90s refugees, which is nice. Alex Dimitriades and I were just filming [upcoming Binge original series] Strife and we were joking about the ’90s, talking about all those days.”

Which leads us to his latest series that he’s here to talk about today. Channel 9’s Human Error sees him reunite with Leeanna Walsman, who leads the crime drama.

“I’d worked with Leeanna in a film, Dawn, in 2015 and then directed her in a short film I made, Perry,” he says. “I was offered the part while I was in Melbourne doing a play, Sunday. They sent through the scripts, and they were great, real page turners. So I said, ‘Yes, that should be easy. I’ll shoot Human Error during the day and do the play at night’… which nearly killed me. Turns out, it’s not so easy!

“But it was a lot of fun. It was an interesting character; there was real conflict in there. I think our first day on set I was in bed with Leeanna. It was one of those days where you turn up and go, ‘My job really is strange’.”

Strange it might be but, for Matt, some 40 years after catching the acting bug, it’s not something he can see himself ever not doing. “I dropped out of high school to do this,” he says. “I don’t really have other qualifications.”

While his career may have begun as a teenage pin-up, today Matt says he’s happily embracing character roles – ones he may have shied away from in his younger years. And he’s hoping to keep exploring roles that give him satisfaction. Perhaps even stumbling upon one his wife and kids might watch.

Currently neither son has taken an interest in his projects, although Jackson did discover his turn in cult ABC series Rake on TikTok.

And as for his wife?

“I stopped watching A Country Practice when Molly died, so I never saw him in that,” Kirsty admits. “Sorry, Matt. I loved Kiss or Kill. And Doing Time for Pasty Cline.”

“Anything in the last 20 years?” Matt probes. “Ha,” Kirsty exclaims with a laugh. “I haven’t paid attention!”

Human Error is coming soon to Channel 9 and 9Now.

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