Squizzy’s flash mob

The tale of Aus­tralia’s mob le­gend Joseph Tay­lor is told in a new writes

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - TELEVISION -

THE un­der­world is called the un­der­world for a rea­son. Many of the peo­ple en­gag­ing in ac­tiv­i­ties out­side the law pre­fer to keep their pro­file low and their iden­tity se­cret so as not to at­tract the at­ten­tion of au­thor­i­ties.

But for some crooks, well, the spot­light tends to find them. Or they tend to go search­ing for the spot­light. And as a re­sult, there are crim­i­nals who be­come both in­fa­mous and fa­mous.

When it comes to or­gan­ised crime, the US had Al Capone. The UK had the Kray twins. And in Aus­tralia in the early years of the 20th cen­tury, there was Melbourne armed rob­ber and mob­ster Joseph Tay­lor, bet­ter known by his nick­name Squizzy.

He was a mas­ter ma­nip­u­la­tor. A ladies’ man of renown. And a ruth­less crim­i­nal not afraid of get­ting his hands dirty in the pur­suit of ill-got­ten gains.

It is his story be­ing told in the lat­est in­stal­ment of Chan­nel 9’s Un­der­belly crime saga. Un­der­belly: Squizzy chron­i­cles 12 years in Tay­lor’s vi­o­lent, danger­ous, ex­trav­a­gant, event­ful and tragic life, fol­low­ing his law-break­ing ca­reer and his tur­bu­lent ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ships.

Head­ing up a cast that in­cludes Susie Porter, Luke Ford, Diana Glenn and Dan Wyl­lie is Jared Daperis, bring­ing a cock­sure charisma to his por­trayal of the short-statured but hugely con­fi­dent ti­tle char­ac­ter.

‘‘He is this big per­son­al­ity,’’ says Daperis, dressed to the nines in Tay­lor’s tra­di­tional fin­ery on the Un­der­belly: Squizzy set.

‘‘And be­cause of that we were very aware we didn’t want to turn him into a car­i­ca­ture. The rounds of re­search we did gave us plenty of in­sight into his pub­lic life – be­cause he cer­tainly courted the me­dia – but we also wanted to fo­cus on who he was pri­vately and that re­ally gave me some­thing to sink my teeth into.’’

Tay­lor’s pri­vate life was full of highs and lows – in­clud­ing the heart­break­ing loss of his eight-month-old child to Span­ish flu – but it was his pub­lic per­sona that re­ally cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion of the Aus­tralian pub­lic nearly a cen­tury ago.

‘‘I think he was driven by how big his ego was,’’ says Daperis of Squizzy’s lust for recog­ni­tion and fame.

‘‘I don’t think he was nec­es­sar­ily a crim­i­nal to make money; I think for Squizzy it was fame over for­tune. He made huge amounts of money but he was reck­less with it – he cer­tainly wasn’t left with much in the end – and I think that can be traced back to his ego.’’

‘‘He kind of pi­o­neered this; he was the first celebrity gang­ster in Aus­tralia, maybe the first in the world. Crim­i­nals and the po­lice and the pub­lic had never ex­pe­ri­enced any­thing like him; that’s why he re­mains this leg­endary fig­ure to this day.’’

In­deed, there’s a kind of ap­peal to char­ac­ters like Squizzy Tay­lor, even if one has to ad­mit it grudg­ingly.

‘‘He’s not a hero from a moral stand­point; he was a crim­i­nal and he was en­gaged in crim­i­nal busi­ness,’’ says Daperis. ‘‘But there’s a touch of the Robin Hood about him – a lot of Aus­tralia was be­hind him be­cause of his charm and his charisma. It sort of soft­ened the blow.’’

Un­der­belly: Squizzy: Sun­days, 8.30pm, Nine, NBN.

Jared Daperis and Gra­cie Gil­bert

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