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
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