TEN ran its first promo for its Hawke telemovie on the same night that Julia Gillard was staring down Kevin Rudd for the job of Prime Minister. Yesterday our newest PM had to fend off suggestions she had reneged on a deal with Rudd. This week Paul Keating also claimed he had “carried” Bob Hawke through several of his years as PM.

Honestly, can you get better publicity on the eve of your telemovie hitting our screens?

The truth is Hawke doesn’t need any free kicks because it stands up on its own merits.

The bio-pic from Producer Richard Keddie is an excellent essay on a most-colourful character. Bob Hawke was a man of the people who carried his attributes of mateship and passion into the land’s top office. It netted him a 75% popularity rating and four terms in office.

Through it all he wore his heart on his sleeve, swearing, crying, drinking and even, more privately, womanising. Such personality traits make him a larger than life TV character, personified here by Richard Roxburgh.

But being so well-known is also a double-edged sword for any performer. On screen Hawke has previously been portrayed by David Field (The Night We Called it a Day), Gerry Connolly (A Royal Commission Into the Australian Economy) and Max Gillies (The Gillies Report). Roxburgh’s is necessarily the most dimensional of them all.

Roxburgh looks the part with his impeccable wig, although the make-up is caked on for ageing. His familiar voice cuts through in ways we recognise. He goes for the spirit of Hawke rather than a characterisation. Up close under a TV lens it is also highly theatrical.

Contrasting him is the Machiavellian role of Paul Keating, played brilliantly by a reserved Felix Williamson. This is by far the more interesting of the roles because of his Shakespearean role in the chess game and the cool, austere resolve with which he manouevres.

The power struggle between the two is the essence of the tale, rather than any internal demons Hawke encountered from trade unionist to Prime Minister. There aren’t quite enough moments that illustrate how the PM ultimately believed his own publicity and became so isolated within his party, or how members of his family were left on the outer.

Key moments depicted in the telemovie include his famous Australia’s Cup victory speech, tears over learning of his daughter’s heroin addiction, and the secret deal done at the Lodge to handover to Paul Keating. There is nothing of the promise that no child will live in poverty by 1990, or the famous fluffy white bath robe photos with biographer turned lover Blanche d’Alpuget (Asher Keddie).

d’Alpuget and Hazel Hawke (Rachael Blake) portray the two women in Hawke‘s life with the former appearing as early as the 1970s (hence the rather youthful casting of Keddie). Hazel is portrayed as a quiet anchor to her boisterous husband. Sacha Horler also delivers a fine performance as Hawke’s aide, Jean Sinclair.

Others to appear in the film include veteran actors Terry Norris and Julia Blake as Hawke‘s parents and a supporting role from Josh Lawson.

The timeline of the tale is sometimes confusing, shifting from 1990s to 1970s and 1980s. But the production design Carrie Kennedy and Ben Morieson wonderfully captures the drab Canberra of the ’70s and ’80s.

Following the credits there is a rollcall of achievements by Hawke, which seems so lovingly offered that you can’t help but wonder if it was a thankyou to Hawke for his consultation on the telemovie. It conspicuously leaves out any failures.

Nevertheless, while it won’t surpass The Dismissal (also produced for TEN) or William McInnes’ title performance in the Curtin telemovie (also produced by Richard Keddie), this is a fine achievement. Definitely worth your attention.

Hawke airs 8:30pm Sunday on TEN.


  1. who gives a crap about bob’s sex life and keating,s bloody clock.. a roof over our head that doesn’t cost an arm an a leg and food on the table is all people want..I don’t care about the life of politician..they are suppose to be there for the people..not fight over who will win and loose and they own self interest ..the system stinks… to think that bob actually wonder how history will remember him..what a laugh… who will care in a 100 years nobody…

  2. I watch the film.!!.they forgot a few details,..keating abolish negative gearing.. all the single mother I knew were thrown literally in the street by landlord who started to sell their houses….the one i lived in was one of 8 on spit road mosman.. i live there for 13 years for 70 dollars a week by the time it was sold., and the first ten years it was 30 dollars ..all cheap housing went under the hammer and soon there was no place to rent…why don’t they think of the repercussion when they change anything..poor people don’t make a country grown..money is power.. and the rest of us just have more crumbs .just think when you vote in august ..what are they going to change this time ..i have a name for them all but i can’t say it here ….

  3. So good! Would love there to be a whole series… so much juicy content that could be expanded upon. Loving this trend of Australian dramas about dramatic Australians! More please!
    p.s. love Richard Roxborough

  4. I saw it last night and it was very good, although some of the swearing was over the top and could have been omitted. There was also an error in the typeface of The Age newspaper in a scene set in 1979: the typeface was not created until 2004. Also, the extra who played political journalist Michelle Grattan was so like her with heavy hair and thick glasses!

  5. I actually thought it had very bad flow and it was a chore for be to sit through the whole two hours… Though convincing, I didn’t think Roxburgh was quite impressive as people were saying. OTT actually.

  6. “It conspicuously leaves out any failures.”

    Does this mean this movie doesn’t have his famous quote, “…by 1990 no Australian child will be living in poverty”?

  7. FWIW I’ve heard this project was offered to the ABC but it was not seriously considered. I think it highlights many things that have been going wrong at the ABC for the past few years. Firstly series like BORing is commissioned for 3 series and it’s not possible to wonder if the Southern Star colleagues are looking after each other. Was BORing really the best drama on offer? Secondly – ABC drama should be commissioning dramas like Hawke and suggesting a way to finance it as a mini series – easily achieved with ABC sales on board – the equally awful East of Everything was fully financed by the ABC. It’a about leadership and editorial choices, not cronyism. This is the kind of potential landmark series (like Bastard Boys) that enables ABC drama to participate in the national conversation. What a missed opportunity for the ABC and its audience who are so eager for some decent Aussie drama.

  8. Karen – There was an article I read elsewhere that had the producer saying ideally it would have been made as a mini series but in the current climate that wasn’t seen as financially viable.

  9. Ok David, I’ll forgo my concerns about the casting choices based on your recommendation….. Hopefully the acting is better than the make-up.

  10. This should’ve really been 3 hours (excluding ads) and shown over 2 nights, as it appears too much has been excised for 90 minutes, if you include commercials to make it 2 hours.

  11. Let’s hope TEN has the decency to play the credits without obnoxious squeezing and promos.
    @Jason D “Mark Latham’s election campaign, John Howard and Peter Costello, as well as the Kevin Rudd leadership spill”. None of that would compare with one day of Hawke. I guess you weren’t around at the time for the real thing.

  12. Looks interesting, though from the trailer Richard’s Hawke does seem a bit OTT, like it belongs on stage. I hope it’s not too much for TV. Nicely timed for ratings given the brouhaha between Keating/Hawke/Blanche in the press this week…

  13. Looks interesting, pity I watched Good Night and Good Luck as well as Frost/Nixon in the last two weeks, so it might not seem as interesting to me.

  14. Can’t wait to see this, it looks very interesting from the promos I have seen. It also makes me wonder how long it will be before there is a telemovie about Mark Latham’s election campaign, John Howard and Peter Costello, as well as the Kevin Rudd leadership spill.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.