This week ev­ery­body’s talk­ing about... LACHIE HULME

Fact and fic­tion have blurred in the retelling of 1990s Oz clas­sic film Romper Stomper, writes Clare Rig­den

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LACHY Hulme is a ver­i­ta­ble chameleon when it comes to shapeshift­ing in and out of roles for film and TV.

He’s at it again in Stan’s TV re­make of the cult clas­sic Aussie movie, Romper Stomper.

Up­dated to the present day, the se­ries fo­cuses on a fic­tional far right group “Pa­triot Blue”, headed by Hulme’s char­ac­ter, Blake.

Gone are the close cropped hair­cuts, bovver boots and swastikas of the ’90s ver­sion, which had a men­ac­ing-look­ing Rus­sell Crowe as poster boy. In­stead Blake, a paunchy, mid­dle-aged man, is more at home in hi-vis vests nes­tled safe be­hind the walls of his sub­ur­ban McMan­sion; not for him the mean streets of Mel­bourne.

“When my hair was get­ting bleached for the part, it was a six-hour process in the makeup chair,” Hulme says. “(Pro­duc­ers) John and Dan Ed­wards and (orig­i­nal di­rec­tor) Ge­of­frey Wright (also in­volved in the pro­duc­tion) came into the make-up room and John just shook his head and said, ‘An­other one for the rogues gallery’.

“But I en­joy the trans­for­ma­tion. You want to be able to look in the mir­ror and go, ‘That is the per­son’.”

Like the film, this up­dated Romper Stomper — which brings back orig­i­nal cast mem­bers Dan Wyllie and Jacque­line Macken­zie, and adds David Wen­ham — mines un­com­fort­able ter­ri­tory, re­fus­ing to shy away from the con­tro­ver­sial racist ide­ol­ogy spewed by Hulme’s char­ac­ter, and oth­ers.

While Hulme en­joyed phys­i­cally in­hab­it­ing Blake, delv­ing into the char­ac­ter’s psy­che was an al­to­gether dif­fer­ent — and far more dis­qui­et­ing — ex­pe­ri­ence.

“Be­cause of the type of man I’m play­ing, you don’t want to deep dive too far into his men­tal­ity,” Hulme says. “It’s re­ally de­press­ing — you get on the in­ter­net to do re­search about these types of peo­ple and five min­utes later you have to down tools be­cause these are just re­volt­ing peo­ple.

“It’s this hor­ri­ble com­bi­na­tion of white en­ti­tle­ment, com­bined with re­sent­ment and vic­tim­hood.”

On the day we chat with Hulme, the Her­ald Sun fea­tures a front-page story about clashes be­tween far right pro­test­ers and their anti-fas­cist coun­ter­parts. The photo shows a man beat­ing an­other pro­tester — an im­age that eas­ily could have fea­tured Hulme in char­ac­ter.

“That first week we were shoot­ing this mas­sive brawl at a Ha­lal fes­ti­val, where my group Pa­triot Blue are at­tack­ing Mus­lim peo­ple be­fore the ‘An­tiFac’ group show up, then the cops show up, and it be­comes an all-in brawl,” Hulme ex­plains.

“I said to Ge­of­frey Wright, ‘Where are we in time on this?’ And he told me we’re a bit ahead of the curve.

“Then, that fol­low­ing week­end, all the footage came in from Char­lot­teville, with the neo-Nazis and Trump com­ing out in sup­port of them. I thought, ‘OK, I think we are a lit­tle bit be­hind the curve’.”

The lines be­tween fact and fic­tion were blurred even fur­ther when, dur­ing film­ing, news reached the pro­duc­tion that a Mel­bourne-based far­right group had adopted the Pa­triot Blue tag.

“I said to John Ed­wards, ‘Mate, have you seen this news re­port?’ Je said to me, ‘Yep — and they are in vi­o­la­tion of in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty and copy­right’,” Hulme says.

“I said, ‘What’s the next step?’ and he said, ‘We’re go­ing to f---ing sue them’.

“It’s all well and good if you are a right-wing, neo-Nazi thug, and bul­ly­ing peo­ple on the street — but the last thing you want to do is muck with show­biz lawyers.”

Nicole Chamoun, who plays a young Le­banese Mus­lim girl caught in the mid­dle of the drama, has also been struck by Romper Stomper’s mir­ror­ing of the head­lines.

“The sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween our story and what has been go­ing on are crazy,” she says. “But that’s why it’s im­por­tant to tell the story. Drama is some­times a gen­tler way to get the gen­eral pub­lic to think about things, and al­low them­selves some space for a per­spec­tive, when the news might be too real.

“It is hap­pen­ing — and we can’t look away.”

WATCH ROMPER STOMPER, Stan, New Year’s Day

LACHY HULME STOKES RACIAL TEN­SION IN THE MODERN-DAY ROMPER STOMPER SE­RIES

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