Retro fit?

What’s still funny about Ho­ges: The Paul Ho­gan Story

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - TV Guide - - Front Page -

THE wig doesn’t seem to fit prop­erly and the chau­vin­ist ’70s jokes won’t hit their mark with to­day’s fem­i­nists.

But is there still some­thing to love – and laugh – about the rags-to-riches tale of ar­guably Aus­tralia’s great­est lar­rikin and show­biz suc­cess story?

Channel 7’s biopic Ho­ges: The Paul Ho­gan Story ex­plores the ex­tra­or­di­nary trans­for­ma­tion of a hum­ble sub­ur­ban kid, turned Syd­ney Har­bour Bridge painter, into one of our pi­o­neer­ing TV tal­ents and box- of­fice record hold­ers, still liv­ing an un­likely Hol­ly­wood dream.

Josh Law­son, who shares the tele­movie’s lead role with Glitch and Pu­berty Blues actor Sean Keenan, be­lieves the au­di­ence has much to learn and cel­e­brate about this lo­cal hero.

“He lived such a fas­ci­na­tion­ing and sur­pris­ing life,” Law­son told TV Guide, during film­ing of the two-part se­ries in Bris­bane last year.

“He was the guy you’d least ex­pect it all to hap­pen to. He was com­plex but he was sim­ple in a lot of ways too. Per­haps his great­est ap­peal was that he ap­peared to be so sim­ple, raw and hon­est. When he first went on TV, there hadn’t been a char­ac­ter like that. TV was [all] put-to­gether gen­tle­men with ar­tic­u­late voices and then Ho­ges burst in look­ing like a bloke you’d have a beer with,” Law­son said.

In­deed, that cheeky bloke born in Light­ning Ridge and raised in Syd­ney’s south-west made his TV de­but back in 1971 on a dare; win­ning over view­ers when he skew­ered the judges on Channel Nine’s pop­u­lar star search se­ries, New Faces.

That ap­pear­ance led to a weekly gig, of­fer­ing a satir­i­cal take on the week’s news or pop­u­lar cul­ture on A Cur­rent Af­fair, hosted then by Mike Wille­see.

A young pro­ducer on the show, John Cor­nell (played by The Se­cret River’s Ryan Corr), saw Ho­ges’ po­ten­tial and de­vel­oped a pro­gram around him; form­ing the ba­sis of their long-stand­ing friend­ship and the busi­ness and cre­ative part­ner­ship be­hind the phe­nom­e­nally suc­cess­ful Croc­o­dile Dundee films.

The Paul Ho­gan Show would pro­duce some of the most risque sketches Aus­tralia had ever seen and in­tro­duce the coun­try to Del­vene De­laney, a beauty pageant win­ner (played by Nikki Os­bourne) who would be­come one of Ho­ges’ side­kicks and Cor­nell’s wife.

The gen­der pol­i­tics of the day pro­vided much of Ho­gan’s ma­te­rial and is ex­pected to jar with many view­ers to­day.

But as Law­son ex­plained: “It’s part of why these shows [biopics] are so pop­u­lar. You not only look at the life of the per­son but you’re also in­ves­ti­gat­ing the time. This is no dif­fer­ent. We look at com­edy tele­vi­sion and film over the years.”

His prepa­ra­tion for the role was en­gross­ing. Still, the An­chor­man2 actor is expecting crit­i­cism.

“Peo­ple re­mem­ber Ho­ges and they know him, they love him, so they have ex­pec­ta­tions about my ver­sion, I guess. There’s a real and tan­gi­ble com­par­i­son … they’re prob­a­bly pro­tec­tive. I had all of that to con­sider. I put a lot of pres­sure on my­self … that’s par for the course.”

Law­son claimed he had the bless­ing of the man him­self, af­ter speak­ing to him over the phone be­fore pro­duc­tion be­gan.

“What you see is what you get,” he said. “He’s a re­ally down-to-earth, hum­ble, self-dep­re­cat­ing and gen­uine bloke.

“It must have been a weird thing for some­one to call up and say, ‘Hey, I’m play­ing you’, and pep­per him with ques­tions. He han­dled it all with a great deal of class. It’s nice to know I have his bless­ing at this early stage.”



Cheeky: Josh Law­son (above cen­tre) as Paul Ho­gan; inset, Ho­gan with John Cor­nell and Del­vene De­laney.

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