HOW AARON JEFFERY GOT INTO THE HEAD OF AUSTRALIA’S MOST INFAMOUS CRIME FIGURE
Aussie actor Aaron Jeffery knew he was hitting the mark when his co-star uttered the words, “Oh, I don’t believe it – I’m in bed with Chopper”.
Jeffery, known for his roles in McLeod’s Daughters and Wentworth, packed on the kilos, was covered in tattoos and used mouthpieces to transform for the role of Mark “Chopper” Read in the latest offering of the Underbelly franchise, Underbelly Files: Chopper.
But perhaps the most important preparation for the role came by delving into the psyche of the infamous Australian crime figure.
“I got a real chance to look at the psychological profile of the character we created, with Mark Read and Chopper; the two separate entities sort of coming together,” Jeffery says.
“A lot of my research was with a psychologist and just plotting what I knew about his early stages of childhood into his teenage years, and also looking at psychiatrist reports that were done on him over the years.
“A lot of my choices and character research was done in that vein.”
While Eric Bana brought Read’s story to the silver screen in the 2000 film, Chopper, Jeffery says this two-part telemovie covers a different part of his life.
“Eric Bana was extraordinary in that movie and that movie was a landmark Australian film at the time but this is very different,” he says.
“That was sort of Chopper in his prime and this is Mark Read post the movie and really as John Silvester (journalist and crime writer) put it so eloquently, going to seed. His standover days are really over.”
Underbelly Files: Chopper
picks up as Read is released from Pentridge Prison in 1991 and promises his partner, Margaret, he is going to leave crime behind him.
“It’s a love story, it’s also the hero’s journey in a sense of taming the dragon and how does he go straight, how does he integrate,” Jeffery says.
“Chopper was part of his psychological make-up that was created to protect him and to survive – how does he integrate that into the real world with Mark Read?
“It’s that journey ... and the old world popping up and trying to pull him back.”
Jeffery says Aussies are so fascinated by the Chopper story because it taps into the idea of the underdog that’s become part of the country’s psyche. It also offers us the chance to imagine what life would be like if we went off the reservation.
“He does and says things that some people only think about, you know, he does them and you’re attracted to that because he’s his own governor in a sense,” Jeffery says.
“I think we all have thoughts but we never follow through with them. What happens if maybe you follow through with those dark and deviant thoughts? People get a relief through that.
“Apart from that it’s kind of your anti-hero journey and I think people will be absolutely fascinated by parts of this character that we’ve brought to life in our telling of the story ... that’s really unexpected.” Underbelly Files: Chopper premieres on Sunday at 8.30pm on Channel 9
IT’S ALSO THE HERO’S JOURNEY IN A SENSE OF TAMING THE DRAGON
Michael Caton and Aaron Jeffery star in Underbelly Files: Chopper, which premieres on Sunday.