CHANNEL 9 has finally lifted the curtain on its small screen retelling of Schapelle Corby’s Bali drugs ordeal, which – until now – has been a stealth operation to avoid attacks on the production’s star cast and crew.
The first look inside the controversial movie-length drama comes only after filming on the Gold Coast hinterland set wrapped last Friday, with producers using the fake working title of ‘Doc McGhee’ to divert Corby protesters away from the project.
New York-based, Australian actor Krew Boylan has made a stunning transformation in the title role of Schapelle, as the beauty school dropout arrested at Bali airport in 2004 with 4.2 kilograms of marijuana in a boogie board bag.
With the real Corby poised to be granted parole by the Indonesian courts which sentenced her to 20 years prison for importing the banned drug, the Fremantle Media production will be one of the most hotly-anticipated dramas on Nine’s 2014 programming slate – to be unveiled to media and advertisers today.
Boylan, who has been accused of “prostituting her talents” for the production in a nasty social media campaign by Corby’s supporters, told News Corp she felt great “empathy” for the convicted drug smuggler and was “very touched and thrilled to bring this character to life.”
“I don’t know if I’m being naive, but I was just really grateful to get the part. This one I appreciate, it’s a really big story and a really big journey that she goes on. It’s not an ordinary story which is why it’s so interesting.”
Her physical makeover as Corby included dyeing her blonde locks black and donning green contact lenses.
But it’s the 34-year-old’s emotional intensity in scenes like the reading of the court’s verdict and her subsequent mental unravelling in a dingy Kerobokan jail cell which will mark Boylan as a serious actor of immense ability.
Khoa Do, who directed the acclaimed SBS telemovie Better Man -the story of Van Nguyen, the last Australian to be hung in Singapore for drug-trafficking- was also at the helm of Schapelle. Boylan credited her performance to “feeling very safe” in his hands.
Former Neighbours star Jacinta Stapleton (sporting a set of bucked false teeth) also impresses as Corby’s sister Mercedes, with veterans Denise Roberts and Colin Friels cast as her parents
Roberts, who is uncanny as the Gold Coast family matriarch, admitted her likeness to Rose turned more than a few heads during filming – especially during one shopping trip with Stapleton.
“We finished work and we were walking through the shopping centre and she and I were there with our make-up on and people were literally doing triple takes. She said to me `why is everybody looking at us? Do you think they recognise us?’ And I said ‘no I think they think we’re Mercedes and Ros’,”Roberts, who starred in GP and Cops LAC, said, laughing.
The cast also includes Underbelly actor Vince Colosimo (as Gold Coast lawyer Robin Tampoe), Les Chantery (as mobile mogul Ron Bakir), Francis Greenslade (as Alexander Downer) and Michael Croaker (as AFP boss Mick Keelty).
The secret code name for the Schapelle production refers to another high-profile drugs case, back in 1988, when rock manager Doc McGhee was convicted of smuggling 40,000 pounds of marijuana into the US.
McGhee, whose clients included Motley Crue and Bon Jovi, used character references from his rock star friends to minimise his punishment to a $15,000 fine and five-year suspended prison term.