Bowl­ing over LA

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - TV Guide - - Cover Story - – Deb­bie Schipp

Ten years ago, Grant Bowler got “sick of play­ing cops” on Aus­tralian tele­vi­sion, broke the rules and took a shot at mak­ing his mark in Amer­ica.

“Back then the rules were: you don’t go to LA if you’re not in­vited; you don’t go un­less you have a red- car­pet film, and you don’t go if you’re over 30,” Bowler laughs.

Then 33, Bowler had none of those things. He did have an un­quench­able fire in his belly.

“I thought, ‘Be happy and grate­ful for what you’re given and shut up. Be sat­is­fied’, but in the end I couldn’t. I had to go find out if I could play with the big boys,” he says. Turns out, Bowler can. He’s now a full-time work­ing ac­tor, with a CV that boasts stints on Ugly Betty and in cult se­ries True Blood, a string of movie cred­its and a lead role in the up­com­ing cable sci-fi se­ries De­fi­ance.

But ev­ery year, the 43-year- old takes a drama role to bring him back to Australia.

Nine tele­movie The Great Mint Swin­dle was last year’s draw­card.

And for Bowler and co-stars Todd La­sance, Josh Quong Tart, Shane Bourne and John Batch­e­lor,

I had to go find out if I could play with the

big boys

it’s a triumph. The movie traces the un­be­liev­able but true story of one of Australia’s most fa­mous gold heists.

On June 22, 1982 the Perth Mint was pre­sented with stolen cheques in re­turn for more than 65kg of gold worth $ 653,000. The gold then dis­ap­peared.

The ac­cused were three broth­ers – Ray, Peter and Brian Mick­el­berg.

The trio, who had been con­victed of fab­ri­cat­ing a mas­sive fake gold nugget – The Yel­low Rose of Texas – and sell­ing it to ty­coon Alan Bond for $ 350,000 ( more than dou­ble its real value), were found guilty of the Perth Mint Swin­dle theft and in 1983 were sen­tenced to 20, 16 and 12 years in jail re­spec­tively.

Lead­ing the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was rogue cop Don Han­cock ( played with men­ac­ing, vi­o­lent bril­liance by Bourne), and his off­sider Tony Le­wandowski ( a role in which Batch­e­lor shines) – a cop who would later con­fess to fab­ri­cat­ing ev­i­dence against the Mick­el­bergs at a 2002 State Royal Com­mis­sion.

Their con­vic­tions were ul­ti­mately quashed.

That epic saga has in­spired the tele­movie re­veal­ing Ray ( Bowler), Peter ( La­sance) and Brian’s ( Quong Tart) fight for jus­tice.

The story at­tracted the Los An­ge­les-based Bowler from the out­set.

“It’s got ev­ery­thing. It is the story of three broth­ers, of fight­ing for free­dom, it’s a mys­tery and it’s true and it’s got that great Aus­tralian thing of be­ing ut­terly, and com­pletely shafted,” he says.

“I knew Josh and Toddy were on board, and John Batch­e­lor who was my best man at my wed­ding – as I was at his – was play­ing the evil cop­per.

“And when I was told Shane was cast, I lit up.

“Be­cause I know Bourne has it in him. Com­edy is an­gry and Shane Bourne is one of the fun­ni­est blokes I know.”

Bowler is no slouch him­self in the role of old­est brother Ray Mick­el­berg.

One scene in which Ray, still in jail af­ter years of ap­peals go­ing nowhere, is told by his wife she has met some­one else, show­cases the ac­tor at his best.

Bowler plays it beau­ti­fully – a dig­ni­fied, agonising, heart­break­ing por­trait of a strong man at break­ing point, ac­cept­ing the in­evitable.

“That was a tough scene,” Bowler re­flects. “It helps when you’ve met the bloke and you see the cost in his real life.”

“Ray got a job in the prison li­brary and in or­der to keep be­ing a fa­ther to his chil­dren, he would cre­ate text­books for his chil­dren ac­cord­ing to what year they were study­ing.

“He would pho­to­copy things and bind it all into books so they could go through it as a way of ( him) be­ing present as a fa­ther.”

Bowler, who split from his wife of nine years, Rox­ane Wil­son, a year ago, knows the im­por­tance of that.

Nei­ther has gone public on the split – both vow­ing their chil­dren, Edie, 8, and Zeke, 6 were their pri­or­ity.

At the time, Bowler made no bones about the fact Wil­son was the rock in their fam­ily while he pur­sued work in Syd­ney and LA.

She ac­knowl­edged “it took an enor­mous amount of sac­ri­fice and sadly, our mar­riage was one of the things that went along the way.”

A year on, Wil­son has re­lo­cated to LA to pur­sue her own ca­reer, with the pair’s chil­dren, some­thing Bowler says “just hap­pened that way” and has worked out well for all con­cerned.

“I haven’t spo­ken about the split and I won’t, ex­cept to say we are both com­mit­ted to our kids and we’re there cheer­ing them on at ev­ery per­for­mance of ev­ery five-minute Ja­panese pre­sen­ta­tion and Christ­mas and Hal­loween pageant,” he says. “And we do it all as a team. “She’s re­ally happy there and she’s got a great spot and I’m happy with where I’m at and the kids are over the moon.”

He con­fesses he is “dat­ing”, then draws the cur­tain on his per­sonal life.

Back on pro­fes­sional ground, Bowler has a busy 2012 in store in LA and is ready to be­gin shoot­ing De­fi­ance next month, hav­ing hon­oured com­mit­ments to a new se­ries of Seven’s Amaz­ing Race and Bor­der pa­trol.

“Last year I was a black­jack dealer killin’ zom­bies ( in zom­bie movie Steve Niles’ Re­mains), a crazy Aus­tralian bomber ( in US drama The Cape), a car­toon char­ac­ter, a Texan fast foods mil­lion­aire ( in Good Chris­tian Belles), brother to a gay man try­ing to get green card in New York ( in movie I Do),” he says.

This year looks sim­i­lar, but he’ll find time to do his “an­nual Aussie drama job­bie”.

“I love busy. I’ll do it till I drop,” Bowler says.

“Af­ter the apoc­a­lypse it’ll be just me and the cock­roaches.”

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