Miner role cuts deep
Shane Jacobson had to unearth troubling emotions to play survivor Brant Webb in a telemovie about the Beaconsfield disaster, writes Fiona Byrne
HE is known for being quick with a joke and his forte is roles with a comedic twist. But there were few laughs for Shane Jacobson in the filming of the Beaconsfield telemovie — one of the most confronting, taxing, but ultimately rewarding projects he has taken on.
Jacobson and Lachy Hulme step into the shoes of Brant Webb and Todd Russell respectively, the gutsy miners who survived 14 days trapped underground when the Beaconsfield mine in Tasmania collapsed in 2006.
Both actors developed a strong rapport with the men whose fight for survival captivated a nation.
‘‘ Most of the time when you do a character or do a film, it is something that has come out of the imagination, or off the pencil or pen, of a writer,’’ Jacobson says.
‘‘ But this story is not that. It is a piece of history.
‘‘ When this (mine collapse) happened no one knew where Beaconsfield was. They knew some men were stuck in a mine in Tassie; they eventually learned their names; then we found some pictures; then we were shown the town, and we learned the name Beaconsfield.
‘‘ Then we saw that iconic shot of the mine, that we all know so well, and 14 days later we were glued to our televisions and Todd and Brant walked out of the cage.
‘‘ What this project does is fill in the blanks of what happened in those 14 days.’’
Jacobson says immersing himself in the living hell Webb endured while trapped underground for two weeks has had a profound effect on him — more so than any role.
‘‘ It is overwhelming. It has been a far greater emotional journey than I banked on and Brant was amazing. He allowed me access and was willing to talk through any situation,’’ he says.
‘‘ He rang me halfway through filming and asked how I was going with the emotional stuff.
‘‘ I said ‘ I will be honest, mate: I am struggling with some of the emotional stuff. I don’t know how you did it.
‘‘ ‘ I am sitting under some foam rocks and I am surrounded by cameras and people that say, you have finished your day, you can go home. I don’t know how you did it.’
‘‘ It is the only time of any project that I have ever done, and I have been performing since I was eight in one way, shape or form, that I have taken some of the story home.
‘‘ This role took a lot out of me and it has stayed with me. It was very taxing.’’
He says while much of the story focuses on Webb and Russell’s extraordinary experience underground, the project also respects and highlights the heroic feats of the rescuers.
‘‘ These are men who left their families and went back down that mine to try and get their mates out,’’ he says.
‘‘ I amnot made of that stuff. These men, these superheroes — there is no big red ‘ S’ on their chests; they can’t leap tall buildings, but there are lives that have been saved because of their actions.’’
The Beaconsfield production was based in Victoria, but for the final three days of shooting it moved to the township of Beaconsfield in Tasmania, with filming taking place at the mine where the collapse happened.
The famous shot of Webb and Russell walking from the mine elevator and tagging off was recreated by Jacobson and Hulme at the same spot.
Jacobson and Hulme lead a stellar cast, including Cameron Daddo, Michala Banas, Angus Sampson and Anthony Hayes. Steve Vizard plays 60 Minutes reporter Richard Carleton. Beaconsfield, Channel 9, Sunday, 8.30pm Tough stuff: Above, actors Lachy Hulme and Shane Jacobson, and left, cast, crew and mining disaster survivors Todd Russell and Brant Webb.
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