Matt’s driving force
From Offspring to Love Child, Matt Le Nevez has captured hearts across the country. Ahead of his role in Ten miniseries Brock, he tells DANIELLE McGRANE how a legendary racing car driver captured his.
Matt Le Nevez’s voice breaks a little when talking about the man behind his next role. “Honestly, I’m getting upset talking about it,” he said.
The emotion comes when the actor talks about the final moments of the life of Peter Brock’s, the infamous racing car driver who Le Nevez is playing in the Ten miniseries Brock.
Brock died in a car crash at 61 a decade ago while taking part in a rally in Perth and Le Nevez struggles to talk about it.
“There’ll never be another person like Peter Brock,” he said.
In a new two-part miniseries, Le Nevez takes on the role of the driver and helps tell the tale of his extraordinary life.
“He was a complex man who backed his heart and I think it’s an honour to be able to step in his racing shoes just for one day,” Le Nevez said.
“To now try to share his story with the rest of Australia and maybe get some more people to get to know him, I think it’s a real honour and a real privilege.”
Le Nevez, entrusted with re-creating Brock’s big personality for the small screen, spent four months preparing and studying his mannerisms in an attempt to emulate him.
“I was working on the way Peter spoke, with his slight heavy ‘S’ and the way he walked and the way that he held his arms,” he said.
But Le Nevez found out being a mimic wasn’t really in the job description.
“The director pulled me aside and he said, ‘Matt, we’re not doing impersonations, this is not going to be a normal Australian biopic, I don’t need to see you pretend to be Brockie’.”
Instead, Le Nevez and his castmates tried to capture the essence of their reallife characters, to find what drove them.
Le Nevez said he looked at Brock from the inside out to understand his passion, heart and how he loved, particularly the love he had for his wife Bev.
An incredible racing car driver, he was nicknamed the King of the Mountain, a title he earned for winning the Bathurst 1000 race a record nine times.
The miniseries charts Brock’s life from his early years on the circuit to his long relationship with Holden and the Holden Dealer Team, to his gamble on the Energy Polariser which nearly destroyed his career.
The device stemmed from Brock’s belief in Orgone energy – it contained crystals and magnets, which were inserted in the car in the belief it would help align the car’s molecules.
“He backed his heart. He was never afraid of doing what he thought was right, even though it might have been the hardest choice at the time,” Le Nevez said.
Brock’s unconventional journey fascinated the actor.
“He thought because the crystals had such a profound effect on him on a cellular level, the way his Orgone energy vibrated, they could also affect the way that a car ran,” Le Nevez said.
“I mean, that’s such a unique combination of things and when General Motors tried to block him doing it, he backed himself and he believed in it. Most people would back down.
“That’s the mark of a true champion – someone who says, ‘No matter what, I believe in this, and I’m going to do this’, and that’s amazing.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be a show about a racing car driver without some actual racing.
Le Nevez got the chance to get behind the wheel of cars from the 1960s and ’70s, but replicating those incredible moments in Brock’s career wasn’t really an option.
“We have a lot of stock footage,” Le Nevez said. “I’m not going to be able to drive a 1969 Monaro around a mountain like Peter no matter how delusional I might be, or no matter how good an actor I might be. You can’t act that. It’s an amazing skill.”
The dramatic footage the actors filmed around the pits has been seamlessly combined with actual race footage to give it a realistic quality.
But there were other realities in Brock’s life outside of the circuit.
The complexity of his relationship with Holden and Bev, played by Ella Scott Lynch, fascinated Le Nevez.
As did the development of his relationship with his long-time friend and rival Allan Moffat (played by Brendan Cowell), who later became his co-driver.
Le Nevez is acutely aware, though, his portrayal of Brock will be particularly poignant for those people in his life.
“Ultimately, I did not know him,” he said. “And ultimately, some of his family and friends might be uncomfortable to watch some of this. But I do hope they can look beyond that and see we’re trying to share their loved one and keep his legacy going and keep that name alive.”
As far as Le Nevez is concerned, Brock has left an inspiring legacy that he hopes will reach a new generation with this show.
“He signed every autograph [with] either, ‘Follow your dreams’, or, ‘Live your life’,” Le Nevez said. “He was the man who changed the life of everyone he ever met and I’m hoping that maybe someone can see that.
“Maybe through our film they will go back and look at some of the things Peter did in his life, and maybe that can have an effect on some young kid, because Peter was a country kid from Victoria who not only conquered the mountain but conquered the hearts and minds of the entire country.”
Le Nevez: “He was the man who changed the life of everyone he ever met.”
Behind the wheel: Matt Le Nevez as motor racing legend Peter Brock; below,Brendan Cowell plays his co-driver Allan Moffat.