Alex hits role gold

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - TELEVISION - DAVID POUGHER

FOR a young man whose head had ev­ery right to be spin­ning, Alex Wil­liams re­mained ad­mirably grounded as he shot the ti­tle role in Ten’s new tele­movie, Un­der­ground: The Ju­lian As­sange Story.

The 21- year- old ( pic­tured) won the part of the teenage As­sange not long af­ter grad­u­at­ing from the WA Academy of Per­form­ing Arts and, barely be­fore he could draw breath, found him­self work­ing with artists such as Rachel Grif­fiths and An­thony LaPaglia.

‘‘ I fin­ished high school and did my au­di­tion for WAAPA and got into that and then I fin­ished WAAPA and signed with an agent and my first au­di­tion was for Un­der­ground,’’ the West Aus­tralian says.

Writ­ten and di­rected by Robert Con­nolly ( Bal­ibo, The Bank) the film, adapted from the book by Suelette Drey­fus, cov­ers the time when As­sange and oth­ers formed a group called the In­ter­na­tional Sub­ver­sives to hack into or­gan­i­sa­tions’ sys­tems. As­sange went un­der the name of Men­dax but in 1991 was caught in the act of hack­ing into Nor­tel, the Cana­dian telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions com­pany.

He pleaded guilty in 1995 and was fined and re­leased on a bond. But for his dis­rupted up­bring­ing – As­sange has said he lived in 50 towns and at­tended 37 schools – he would have been jailed.

As­sange, who is in the Ecuadorean em­bassy in Lon­don try­ing to avoid ex­tra­di­tion to Swe­den for ques­tion­ing on sex­ual as­sault charges, is known to be a com­plex char­ac­ter, but Wil­liams isn’t in­ter­ested in im­per­son­at­ing his sub­ject.

‘‘ The great thing is that it’s an ori­gin story so I’m not play­ing Ju­lian As­sange as he is now,’’ Wil­liams says.

‘‘ He’s in his 40s now and you learn some­thing in 20 years or so trav­el­ling around the world and do­ing what he does. What I was in­ter­ested in was what made him the man he is now. What gives him that strength? Where did it come from?

‘‘ And our story, it’s not just peo­ple sit­ting around play­ing with com­put­ers. They’ve got a lot of power and a lot of ego. What they were do­ing was com­pletely orig­i­nal. In a way they were ex­plor­ers of a new fron­tier and they just dom­i­nated it – they un­der­stood it when most peo­ple didn’t. No one is com­ing to this film fresh, ev­ery­one’s got an opin­ion on Ju­lian As­sange al­ready. But very few re­ally know much about his back­ground.’’

Not many young ac­tors on their first ma­jor role get to work with artists of the cal­i­bre of Grif­fiths and LaPaglia and Wil­liams is de­lighted and daunted.

‘‘ Work­ing with peo­ple like Rachel Grif­fiths and An­thony LaPaglia, you have to pinch your­self. I can’t be­lieve that this is the first thing that I get to do. But you’re in there and the best thing you can do is not think about it too much.’’

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