Belly of the beast

Gy­ton Grant­ley stacked on 13kg to por­tray gang­ster Carl Wil­liams, writes Dar­ren Devlyn

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Guide -

IT’S HARDLY sur­pris­ing jailed gang­ster Carl Wil­liams is less than happy about how he’s por­trayed in Chan­nel 9’s con­tro­ver­sial drama Un­der­belly.

Wil­liams, serv­ing three life sen­tences for or­gan­is­ing the mur­ders of Ja­son Mo­ran, Lewis Mo­ran and Mark Mal­lia, has al­legedly writ­ten in let­ters to his mother: ‘‘I don’t mind them telling the truth about me, but telling lies and paint­ing me out like some kind of d---head who is brain dead — well that’s just bulls---.’’

Ac­tor Gy­ton Grant­ley, who plays Wil­liams in the $13 mil­lion gang­land se­ries, is amused Wil­liams dis­ap­proves of his work.

‘‘All I can say is that if Carl is in prison and he was able to see the show when it was banned (a Supreme court rul­ing last week opened the way for Nine to screen an edited ver­sion of the first five episodes in Vic­to­ria), then there’s some­thing wrong with the le­gal sys­tem,’’ Grant­ley says with a laugh.

‘‘If he’s seen it, and that’s the way he feels, then fair enough. I played a char­ac­ter given to me in a script and I’m proud of what I did.

‘‘I re­ally did want to meet Carl. You feel some obli­ga­tion to do that, but I wasn’t able to meet him for le­gal rea­sons.

‘‘Most (crim­i­nals por­trayed) in the show are dead or in jail. I did meet many who claim they rolled with Carl and that cer­tainly gave me an in­sight into that world.’’

The cast of Un­der­belly was driven to bring bru­tal au­then­tic­ity to its telling of a well­known story — a gang­land war that led to the loss of 33 lives.

The determination to por­tray vi­o­lence as re­al­is­ti­cally and force­fully as pos­si­ble meant there were rough days on set for all cast — in­clud­ing Grant­ley, Vince Colosimo (who plays stan­dover man Alphonse Gan­gi­tano), Les Hill (Ja­son Mo­ran) and Cal­lan Mul­vey (Mark Mo­ran).

When the Guide vis­ited the Un­der­belly set last win­ter, it was Grant­ley’s turn to be knocked about.

A bone-chill­ing south­west­erly was whip­ping across Port Phillip Bay.

When the di­rec­tor called ‘action’, Grant­ley, as the pudgy Wil­liams, loped through a Wil­liamstown park.

In an al­ter­ca­tion with men who would be­come his en­e­mies in the drug trade, a cow­er­ing Wil­liams was punched and kicked to the ground. Grant­ley’s face was pressed hard into a gravel-laced foot­path.

Asked about the pun­ish­ing he took in the scene, Grant­ley of­fers a shrug.

‘‘As ac­tors, we were very safe and comfortable with each other so we were able to play it a bit rougher,’’ Grant­ley says.

‘‘We are blokes. It prob­a­bly wasn’t any harder than go­ing out and play­ing a game of foot­ball.’’

Though Grant­ley of­fers some comedic re­lief in the por­trayal of Wil­liams as a dope in early episodes, the role was a de­mand­ing one be­cause it re­quired the ac­tor to show grad­ual char­ac­ter trans­for­ma­tion. Wil­liams is seen as some­one who, ini­tially, is in­ca­pable of the cun­ning re­quired to be a gang leader.

‘‘He called him­self the Com­mis­sioner, but every­one else called him Fat Boy,’’ Grant­ley says. ‘‘When we meet him, Carl’s a s---kicker, a gofer.

‘‘You get that el­e­ment of the bul­lied child and you get a chance to see determination in his eyes and what he will even­tu­ally be­come.’’

WHEN Wil­liams be­gins to as­sert au­thor­ity, it’s not so much out of re­venge, but a de­sire to prove he’s not as use­less as his crim­i­nal col­leagues pre­sumed him to be.

‘‘It’s like he’s say­ing, ‘I’m gonna stand up and show you who I re­ally am’,’’ Grant­ley says. ‘‘That power that he gets, that’s in­tox­i­cat­ing. It’s very se­duc­tive.

‘‘It (op­por­tu­nity to make easy money il­le­gally) was there and he took it.

‘‘Th­ese guys couldn’t get a job on a fac­tory floor. They’d rather trade a life in the sub­urbs for a short time liv­ing the high life.’’

Grant­ley feels his phys­i­cal re­sem­blance to Wil­liams is a rea­son he was cast in the role.

The like­ness to Wil­liams be­came stronger as the beginning of film­ing ap­proached.

Grant­ley had vis­ited a di­eti­tian who de­vised a plan for him to put on weight for the role.

He stacked on 13kg, achieved by slow­ing his me­tab­o­lism (stop­ping ex­er­cis­ing) and load­ing up on car­bo­hy­drates.

‘‘Ev­ery time I got in the shower I’d think, ‘Geez I’m fat’,’’ Grant­ley says.

‘‘Prob­lem is, when you’re not ex­er­cis­ing you can get de­pressed. It’s be­cause you are not pro­duc­ing en­dor­phins. I had to re­mind my­self why I was do­ing this (be­ing fat). There were times I felt very de­pressed.’’

Grant­ley also stud­ied video footage and pic­tures of Wil­liams to nail his man­ner­isms.

‘‘The way he walks is dis­tinct,’’ Grant­ley says of Wil­liams. ‘‘He’s a bit like a go­rilla. He holds his weight back and his arms for­ward. And the cos­tume helps. He wore a vast ar­ray of track­suits.’’ Un­der­belly, MA Chan­nel 9, Sun­day, Tues­day, 8.30pm Gang­land drama Du­ra­tion: 1 hour

In char­ac­ter: Gy­ton Grant­ley as Carl Wil­liams (op­po­site page) and a scene from Un­der­belly (left), which has been edited for screen­ing in Vic­to­ria.

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