Aheadof game the

Recre­at­ing Aus­tralian cricket’s golden era had its hairy mo­ments, writes Siob­han Duck

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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

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