Mind of a mad­man

Ac­tor Mal Ken­nard tells HOLLY BYRNES how he faced up to evil to be­come no­to­ri­ous killer Ivan Mi­lat

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - NEWS -

THE scene is set: a dark­ened room, Mal Ken­nard sits at a com­puter alone, ex­plor­ing the dark cor­ners of the in­ter­net late at night.

He’s re­search­ing the role of Australia’s worst se­rial killer Ivan Mi­lat and even now, the ac­tor ad­mits, “some kind of mi­asma de­scends on you,’’ a pal­pa­ble fear he’s not en­tirely com­fort­able talk­ing about.

What hap­pens next, Ken­nard claims, is enough to spook even the most hard­ened crim­i­nal but in re­al­ity, sug­gests the un­set­tling im­pact play­ing Mi­lat – in Seven’s new minis­eries Catch­ing Mi­lat – has had on him.

The 48-year-old tells TV Guide he found him­self in a chat room, in an ex­change with some­one claim­ing to be the man who came to be known around the world as The Back­packer Mur­derer.

While a spokesman for NSW Cor­rec­tive Ser­vices cat­e­gor­i­cally de­nied that Mi­lat, or any other prisoner for that mat­ter, has in­ter­net ac­cess, the on­line en­counter was real enough for Ken­nard.

“It felt like he was there in the room,” Ken­nard says.

“There was cer­tainly a sense of that at the time [but] what I was ac­tu­ally afraid of was my imag­i­na­tion, which I think is what peo­ple are afraid of... that vis­ceral re­sponse.”

It’s true for most who have come face-to-face with the killer that he has a chill­ing phys­i­cal pres­ence which Ken­nard has nailed in this spinet­in­gling TV biopic.

Just who the ac­tor “met” in cy­berspace ul­ti­mately proved ir­rel­e­vant to the ac­tor, who used the ex­pe­ri­ence to chan­nel the emo­tion of it into his per­for­mance.

“It was very help­ful for me as an ac­tor be­cause I think you have to have some sense of where the au­di­ence is at and that gave me a sense that peo­ple would have the same re­ac­tion, feel the same feel­ings I was hav­ing at that time,” he says.

It’s not the first time he’s “gone dark”, earn­ing crit­i­cal ac­claim for

his in­tim­i­dat­ing role as drug-ad­dled Vic­tor Peirce in Fox­tel’s 2011 crime drama Killing Time and later in Ten’s Milperra Massacre tele­movie Bikie

Wars: Broth­ers In Arms.

But tak­ing on the no­to­ri­ous role of Mi­lat, em­body­ing a public fig­ure re­garded as pure evil, clearly comes with some risk to his ca­reer, Ken­nard ar­gues, but a job he found fas­ci­nat­ing as a psy­cho­log­i­cal study.

“You put that name [Mi­lat] next to yours and peo­ple are go­ing to have an idea, but ac­tu­ally this project is go­ing to dis­sect through that myth,” he says.

“Hu­man be­ings get caught up in di­chotomies, good and bad.

“What’s good is what peo­ple can talk about at din­ner par­ties and in con­ver­sa­tion, but we are def­i­nitely at­tracted to the dark side. It’s why this pro­duc­tion has been made... peo­ple want to know.” Based on the best-sell­ing book Sins

of the Brother (writ­ten by es­teemed jour­nal­ists Mark Whittaker and the late Les Kennedy), the two-part biopic ex­am­ines Mi­lat’s long his­tory of mis­deeds well be­fore his ar­rest, as well as the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion which fi­nally caught up with him on May 22, 1994, when his Ea­gle Vale home, in Syd­ney’s south-west, was raided by more than 50 of­fi­cers from Task Force Air.

While many peo­ple will think they know this story and the killer, Ken­nard says there re­mains “a mor­bid cu­rios­ity” about “how Mi­lat be­haves, what’s hap­pen­ing in his life and how they add up to th­ese heinous crimes”.

“How does a per­son ex­ist do­ing th­ese things, hid­ing them, per­haps even hid­ing them from them­selves?” Ken­nard asks.

“That was the point I started from and the rea­son I did the job. There are pic­tures in the book and sto­ries of what Ivan was like as a child and you go, ‘Well, how do you go from this sweet child, with this open face to... ?’

“I re­ally just had a lot of ques­tions and in a lot of ways you just try to an­swer them as you’re shoot­ing... you en­deav­our to an­swer them and hope­fully in that at­tempt, you get to a per­for­mance. Well, touch wood.”

CATCH­ING MI­LAT

SUN­DAY, 8.45PM, SEVEN

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