War sto­ries

Sam Wor­thing­ton was so en­tranced with Dead­line Gal­lipoli he turned ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer as well as ac­tor to tell the tale. By DEB­BIE SCHIPP

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - NEWS - DEAD­LINE GAL­LIPOLI TONIGHT AND MON­DAY, 8.30PM, SHOW­CASE

AS A schoolkid in Fre­man­tle, Sam Wor­thing­ton was no his­tory buff.

“I didn’t care much about his­tory. I couldn’t see how the past was rel­e­vant to the present,” the 38-yearold ac­tor says. That changed when he be­came in­volved in Dead­line

Gal­lipoli, Fox­tel’s sweep­ing minis­eries mark­ing the 100th an­niver­sary of the An­zac cam­paign.

Told through the eyes of four war cor­re­spon­dents who de­fied the cen­sors to tell the truth of the con­flict, the story res­onated with Wor­thing­ton. He signed up be­cause it of­fered new light on a huge slice of Australia’s his­tory and iden­tity.

The fiercely pri­vate Wor­thing­ton has just wel­comed his first child – son Rocket Zot with part­ner Lara Bin­gle. He did not an­swer per­sonal ques­tions for this story, but was more ac­com­mo­dat­ing about Dead­line

Gal­lipoli, his cre­ative baby. “We wanted to craft a story whose is­sues and themes were still rel­e­vant to peo­ple now,” Wor­thing­ton says of the role that brought him home from Los An­ge­les, where his por­trayal of Jake Scully in Avatar had launched him into the Hol­ly­wood strato­sphere.

“This fight to know what we are truly fight­ing for, the strug­gle to un­der­stand the truth in a sand­storm of pro­pa­ganda and the faith that war re­porters have that they can make a dif­fer­ence hasn’t changed, no mat­ter the geog­ra­phy or time pe­riod.” Wor­thing­ton and the Dead­line

Gal­lipoli pro­duc­tion team were determined to give a fresh take on the Gal­lipoli story, mind­ful that many be­fore them had chron­i­cled the battle.

“We didn’t want to present a story that was a con­tin­ual bar­rage of de­spair and vi­o­lence. We all know war is hell,” he says. “If we were go­ing to de­liver some­thing, the main ob­jec­tive was to find a unique point of view from which we could tell our story.

“[Pro­ducer] John Sch­warz re­alised that ev­ery­thing he was read­ing and look­ing at came from some­where, or some­one, and so he started look­ing into who wrote the ar­ti­cles and who took the pho­tos he found in his re­search. This was the key and this was the an­gle that we pre­sented.”

The job of war cor­re­spon­dents at Gal­lipoli – and in­deed cov­er­ing any con­flict at the time – was to write ar­ti­cles which es­sen­tially en­cour­aged more men to en­list.

But El­lis Ash­mead-Bartlett (Hugh Dancy), Charles Bean (Joel Jack­son), Keith Mur­doch (Ewen Les­lie) and Phillip Schuler (Wor­thing­ton) found them­selves un­will­ing to be re­spon­si­ble for more slaugh­ter. In­stead they be­gan de­fy­ing the cen­sors and re­port­ing what was be­fore them.

As war pho­tog­ra­pher Schuler, Wor­thing­ton ul­ti­mately aban­dons his set-up shots to re­veal the images the mil­i­tary big-wigs would pre­fer were con­cealed – ironic given his and Bin­gle’s con­tin­u­ing mod­ern-day war with the pa­parazzi.

Dead­line Gal­lipoli doesn’t hold back from tak­ing aim at the mis­man­age­ment of the Gal­lipoli cam­paign, but Wor­thing­ton is adamant the show “doesn’t aim to lay blame so much as high­light the role that jour­nal­ists have”.

“You can’t leave the ex­pla­na­tion of war up to the war­rior him­self,” he says. “You have to have in­de­pen­dent­minded peo­ple of­fer­ing up their opin­ion of what’s hap­pen­ing.

“And some­times it’s not just for the ar­chives, it can change the course of


He says the cen­sor­ship is­sues war cor­re­spon­dents faced then re­main rel­e­vant to­day. “Ab­so­lutely. I have al­ways been pas­sion­ate about war jour­nal­ists and pho­tog­ra­phers. James Nachtwey is one of my he­roes.

“I love peo­ple who try to wake peo­ple up to atroc­i­ties that we are of­ten blind to. They do not of­ten show war in gen­eral, but more the tragedy it has on the sin­gle man or fam­ily. The events they record should not be forgotten and must not be re­peated.

“As they say, ‘They used to be called war pho­tog­ra­phers, but they are more like anti-war pho­tog­ra­phers’.”

Jug­gling the role of ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer and that of Schuler – a char­ac­ter very dif­fer­ent to his re­cent Hol­ly­wood al­ter egos – was a mat­ter of bal­ance.

“There’s a great bal­ance be­tween pro­duc­ing and act­ing, and bal­anc­ing those hats and the char­ac­ter­is­tics and skills each one re­quires,” Wor­thing­ton says.

“The other ac­tors had be­gun film­ing be­fore I be­gan. I was at a loss as to the di­rec­tion I wanted to take [with Schuler]. Here was a man who had a priv­i­leged up­bring­ing but found an em­pa­thy with the grunts he would film.

“I found that we needed a char­ac­ter who had more hu­mour and that we could use this hu­mour to help serve the char­ac­ter’s jour­ney bet­ter than play­ing him over­sen­ti­men­tal.

“I found a char­ac­ter who I could have fun with, a man whose idea of dis­as­ter was hav­ing his suits creased, or his break­fast served cold. But be­cause of the events that he bears wit­ness to, he learns and un­der­stands the true na­ture of the hor­rors of war.

“This is a strong jour­ney to play and ex­pose the toll of war with­out it be­ing maudlin or stodgy.”

Pic­ture: Matt Net­theim Trevor Is cor­rect at the time of print­ing, but may be Photo: Matt Net­theim

The write stuff: From left, Sam Wor­thing­ton, Joel Jack­son, Hugh Dancy and Ewen Les­lie.


“Joel was a great find. I have been given many op­por­tu­ni­ties my­self in this in­dus­try and Joel had just stepped out of drama school and I saw his pas­sion and in­tegrity and I wanted to help cham­pion that.”


HUGH DANCY: “I had seen Hugh on the show

Han­ni­bal and his com­mit­ment to his craft is in­fec­tious.”

“Ewen is one of the finest ac­tors Australia has. It’s a crime that he is not well known, but maybe for a man of such chameleonic power, that’s a com­pli­ment.”

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