television: Rupert, Kerry and Paper Giants, the sequel ......
An Inquiry helped actor William Zappa with Murdoch role, writes Darren Cartwright
THE UK phone hacking scandal was actor William Zappa’s starting point to prepare for his role as Rupert Murdoch in Paper Giants: Magazine
Wars. Zappa also studied an in-depth BBC documentary about the News Corporation chairman in readiness for the ABC miniseries.
Paper Giants: Magazine Wars is inspired by the furious circulation battle between glossy magazine editors Nene King (played by Mandy McElhinney) and Dulcie Boling (Rachel Griffiths). Boling ran Murdoch-owned New Idea.
King, who had worked as Boling’s deputy editor, was in charge of lifting the sluggish sales of Kerry Packer’s then newest acquisition, Woman’s Day.
The war for circulation supremacy was cheque-book journalism at its finest, or possibly its grubbiest, depending on your view of paid-for interviews and pandering to the paparazzi.
Rob Carlton, who won a Silver Logie for Most Outstanding Actor for his portrayal of Kerry Packer in Paper
Giants: The Birth of Cleo, returns as the
late media mogul.
In playing Murdoch, Zappa says being cast in the role of someone who is still alive and so well known has its challenges.
The lines were blurred between acting and impersonating as he tried to bring Murdoch to the screen in a way that would do his own acting justice without being called a mimic.
‘‘It’s a strange sort of mix because you have to impersonate him because you want it to be real,’’ Zappa says.
‘‘It is difficult because everyone knows who you are supposed to be . . . so I had to do some research.’’
Zappa first watched recordings of Murdoch being heavily questioned during the UK phone hacking scandal inquiry, which provided an insight into his mannerisms.
His main point of reference was a documentary that traced Murdoch’s life from a child to a media giant.
‘‘Part of the whole thing about being an actor is doing enough research to stimulate the imagination,’’ Zappa says.
‘‘There was also a fantastic BBC documentary which had quite a bit of
him in that period (during the ’80s) and that was the primary source.’’ Zappa can now add Paper Giants:
Magazine Wars to his list of credits, but he remains one of those faces viewers recognise but cannot place.
He appeared in Mad Max 2 as Zetta and a number of episodes of Prisoner.
There were guest roles in A Country Practice, The Flying Doctors, Water Rats, Blue Heelers, All Saints, City Homicide,
Crownies and Rake to mention a few. In between TV jobs, Zappa hits the stage and he’s about to start a new play in Sydney although he really would prefer a steady role – any role – in a TV series.
‘‘I would love to play a really good cop or an on-going bad guy, I don’t mind,’’ Zappa says.
‘‘Every actor wants that security for a couple of years because in this business unless you have that major stardom or a regular gig on a TV show you fly by the seat of your pants.’’
William Zappa Rob Carlton, Rachel Griffiths and Mandy McElhinney