Hacking into the true story
It’s a view of Assange like you’ve never seen before, writes
TALK about one steep learning curve. In his first role out of acting school, Alex Williams plays a teen Julian Assange in Channel 10’s new telemovie Underground.
He works under director Bob Connolly ( Balibo) and some of the best Australian actors in the business. They include Rachel Griffiths ( Brothers & Sisters) who plays Assange’s mother Christine and Anthony La Paglia ( Without a Trace, Mental) as the detective who heads a taskforce set up to stop Assange and his hacker friends.
For icing on the cake, Williams saw the film for the first timewith Connolly, castmates and an audience of film lovers at the Toronto Film Festival, where Underground: The Julian Assange Story had its world premiere just a few weeks ago.
‘‘It was a bit daunting really,’’ says the 21-year-old, who calls from Los Angeles, where he has ‘‘meetings and script readings’’ scheduled over the next few weeks based on the strength of his role in the film.
‘‘This was designed for TV and made for TV on a TV budget. Then suddenly bang, you’re watching it in an IMAX theatre which is about as big as it gets. It was pretty nerve-racking.’’
Williams says he used the experience as a learning exercise.
‘‘Toronto is reknowned for attracting these large crowds of people who are really interested in film and it was warmly received,’’ he says.
‘‘There was a Q&A afterwards and there people were really interested about specifics. They threw some real curve ball questions – like had Julian Assange seen the film?’’ The answer, says Williams is ‘‘no’’ ‘‘You know I think he might be a bit busy at the Ecuador Embassy in London right now,’’ he laughs.
Underground focuses on Assange’s late teenage years and his role in Melbourne’s pre-worldwide web hacking scene.
Using the hacking name Mendax, Assange managed to access elite US military and other security sites in cahoots with a loose Australian brethren in the late 1980s and early ’90s. His exploits attracted the attention of international security bodies and he was ultimately arrested in Melbourne.
Director Connolly says the film is based on a book about hackers which Assange contributed to as a researcher, though there had been some factchecking done with Assange’s mum because ‘‘there are certain things you want to get right’’.
‘‘Everyone had seen the film and they wanted to know specifics about Wikileaks, hacking and the culture of the time,’’ says Williams.
‘‘There are a lot of people there who were happy to see a film done about technology at this time and done with a certain level of authenticity.’’
For Williams, that included learning how to play games on an early home computer – a Commodore 64.
‘‘Ever tried to boot a game up on a Commodore 64? It took me days and I struggled. A mobile phone from the same time is so big it’s like a club or something,’’ he says.
‘‘The most interesting thing about this film is not many people know this story . . . what Julian was doing when he was aged between 17 and 20. It’s helped me to understand why he has the vigour to do what he does today . . . what made him the man he is today.’’
Sunday, October 7, 8.30pm, Ten, Ten SC; opens on October 4.
Jordan Raskopoulos, Alex Williams and Callan McAuliffe.