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Film / Paperback Hero

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Paperback Hero is an Australian Romantic Comedy film released in 1999, starring Claudia Karvan and Hugh Jackman, and written and directed by Antony J Bower.

Jack Willis is a road-train driver with a secret. He has just become a top-selling romance novelist. However, being a "man's man" in the Australian outback, to avoid embarrassment he needs a name, a woman's name - and he chooses that of his best friend Ruby.


When a glamourous city publisher shows up to sign "Ruby Vale" to a major book deal, Jack must do some fancy footwork to keep up the charade, including convincing the real Ruby Vale to play along. Like two fish out of water, and out of their depth, Jack and Ruby are drawn closer together as they cope with all the media attention of a whirlwind publicity tour.

Paperback Hero provides examples of:

  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Jack and Ruby, leading Jack to use this with his own characters. Discussed when Ziggy mentions an argument in the book and questions the realism of it. Despite having no context for it, Ruby disagrees: "I reckon some of the best lovers in history fought like bloody dogs on heat." Ziggy concedes the point, mentioning Kate and Petruchio.
  • Disposable Fiancé: Hamish, who shows signs of Latent Jealousy when he finds out what's going on with the book, but he ultimately breaks up with her amicably.
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  • Drives Like Crazy: Jack, in particular when he crashes into Ziggy's rental car while pulling into the roadhouse.
  • Fish out of Water: Jack and Ruby in Sydney. Also Ziggy at the roadhouse.
  • Hand Signals: When Ziggy asks Ruby about "her" next book, Jack tries to mime hints to her. Ruby proves hilariously bad at interpreting them, failing to realise what war Jack means when he holds two fingers up. "...Boar? The Boer War."
  • Internal Reveal: Hamish and Suzie find a discarded page of notes in Jack's handwriting, leading them to figure out he wrote the book. Ziggy figures it out after he describes Brian as an Anti-Hero during a meeting.
  • The Lad-ette: Ruby, to the point that she might be a less convincing romance novelist than Jack. Overlaps with Tank-Top Tomboy and Sir Swears-a-Lot.
  • Most Writers Are Writers: Jack, though he is other things as well.
    Ziggy Keane: I am just trying to work out whether you're a truck driver who writes books or a writer who drives trucks.
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  • Moustache de Plume: Gender-flipped with Jack using Ruby's name to publish his book.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Jack comes to realise this, outing himself as "Ruby Vale".
  • Seven Dirty Words: Before going on TV, Ziggy warns Ruby, "You can't say Jesus, fuck, shit, damn, bloody or discuss sexual organs." Elsewhere, Jack warns her against bloody, bugger or Jesus.
  • Third-Act Misunderstanding: When Ruby finds out that Ziggy knows Jack wrote the book and he didn't tell her.
  • Unmanly Secret: The reason Jack didn't put his name on the book. He comes clean on the Clive Rooney Show after Ruby convinces him to Be Yourself.
  • Write Who You Know: In-Universe, Ruby figures out quickly that Jack's characters are based on the two of them.