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Recreating Australian cricket’s golden era had its hairy moments, writes Siobhan Duck
Ler’s War. Hulme, who usually sports a beard as Offspring’s socially awkward Dr Martin Clegg, had to shave his head and bleach his eyebrows to play media magnate Packer. He also had to stack on weight for the role.
As cricket legends Dennis Lillee and Greg Chappell, Matthew Le Nevez and Damon Gameau grew their hair and gloriously thick moustaches.
Le Nevez also got to show off an impressively thick crop of chest hair.
Clayton Watson (as Ian Chappell), Nicholas Cooper (Gary Cosier) and Brendan Cowell (Rodney Marsh) looked like they had just reached the end of Movember.
‘‘ I was extremely jealous looking at all those magnificent mo’s,’’ Hulme says with a laugh. ‘‘ As soon as we wrapped filming I started growing one myself. They (1970s) were impressive times for moustaches.
‘‘ They ( Howzat’s moustaches) were all real too. Not a single whisker was faked.’’
It’s not the first time Hulme has done the hard yards for his craft. He has become known for throwing himself into his roles (including Todd Russell in Beaconsfield) with the dedication of an Aussie Marlon Brando.
Hulme’s immersion in all things Packer led to stories ACHY Hulme admits he suffered an extreme case of moustache envy on Howzat! Kerry Pack- that he had come to believe he was the media baron, making people call him KP (Packer’s nickname) and refusing to be interviewed by a journalist visiting the set because he ‘‘ wasn’t feeling very Packer’’ on the day.
Hulme is quick to shoot down the idea that he was a ‘‘ method actor’’ who became the character he was playing.
‘‘ I am not a method actor,’’ Hulme says.
‘‘ A method actor is someone who has trained at the Actor’s Studio in New York.
‘‘ It is an actor’s job to try to master the mannerisms and look of the character they are playing. But I don’t convince myself I am the person I am playing.
‘‘ In between action and cut, I would sometimes stay in character just to maintain that character’s energy in between scenes. But I didn’t go home at night thinking I was Kerry Packer.’’
Howzat! is the story of how, in 1976, Packer secretly signed 50 of the world’s best cricketers and established World Series Cricket.
The idea of a breakaway format originally came from John Cornell (Abe Forsythe), best known as comedian Paul Hogan’s mate Strop.
Cornell took the idea to Packer, who had been keen to get the TV rights from the Australian Cricket Board to screen cricket on Channel 9, and the rest is history.
After a turbulent struggle with the cricket establishment, Packer won the day.
For Gameau, whose TV credits include Love My Way Cricketing greats: Damon Gameau as Greg Chappell and Matthew Le Nevez as Dennis Lillee. and Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities, capturing the essence of Chappell was all in the eyes.
‘‘ It was very early on but I got a real sense of how he carries himself and the penetration of his gaze,’’ Gameau says. ‘‘ Greg was a very thorough, precise and focused cricketer — a great thinker and tactician.’’
Le Nevez, a former junior state cricketer, spent a month bowling in the nets getting ready to play Lillee, his childhood hero.
Boxing, jogging and plenty of gym work increased Le Nevez’s fitness, but it still wasn’t enough.
‘‘ Nothing prepared me for the days of bowling I had to do (on Howzat!),’’ Le Nevez says.
‘‘ I now have a new-found respect for fast bowlers. Their bodies go through hell.’’
Hulme says the drastic overhaul of his appearance to play Packer was its own hell. It had a negative effect on his health and self-esteem.
He admits the strain of stacking on weight for the back-to-back roles of Russell and Packer also took its toll on his knees. Playing the formidable and famous Packer did not make Hulme nervous, though.
Nor did he feel intimidated by the fact that Rob Carlton had already done such a stellar job of playing Packer in last year’s miniseries Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo.
In fact, Hulme purposely avoided watching Paper Giants to avoid being influenced by Carlton’s take on the role.
‘‘ I haven’t seen it ( Paper Giants). Sometimes watching another person’s portrayal can only be detrimental to the work.’’ Howzat! Kerry Packer’s War, Channel 9, Sunday, August 19 and Sunday, August 26, 8.30pm