When actor Clayton Watson met Ian Chappell before filming Howzat! he got plenty of tips from the former World Series Cricketer.
“I spoke to him for two hours and he gave me a lot of detail. Everything from mannerisms to wearing chains and batting style. All the minute detail that hopefully makes all the difference in the end,” said Watson (pictured, left).
“He was very generous with behind the scenes information, which was all-important for the friction between Chappelli and (Tony) Greig, Chappelli and Kerry (Packer).
“He was lovely. It was a privilege to meet him. He was someone I had watched when I was growing up, listening to his voice on commentary.”
But Chappell also wanted script changes.
“There were a few things that had to be tweaked and changed but he sent me an email later on saying ‘I hope you can change those things,’” Watson explains.
“He was very good about it and excited about the prospect of the true story being told as opposed to fabrications that had been layered and layered across the years.”
Following Monday’s episode airing Ian Chappell gave a radio interview in which he questioned the accuracy of some of the miniseries.
“I was never going to be happy with that. They should have called it the Packer Cornell Wars last night. Those two were probably portrayed pretty reasonably,” he told TripleM radio.
On the question of Packer flaring up after David Hookes flirted with the idea of leaving World Series Cricket and going back to Adelaide he said the scene wasn’t completely factual.
“I wasn’t there, that was incorrectly portrayed,” Chappell said.
“I was in England but not at the behest of Kerry, I was actually over there working doing some work for The Age and some commentary for the BBC but I wasn’t in that meeting.
“That meeting was only for players who had signed for World Series Cricket who were on the ’77 tour.
“I did hear from some of the guys, ‘I’ll sue your backside for everything you’ve got if you pull out,’ I think that was the rough translation of what Kerry said to him.”
He also said Dennis Lillee was “short-changed” on his portrayal in the formation of World Series Cricket.
“He plays a big part in that thing getting started. He rarely gets credit for it. Last night he virtually had nothing to do with it. But he did. He was the catalyst that got the whole thing started.”
Nine’s miniseries script, by writer Christopher Lee, acknowledges the story is “based on events.” Dramatic license is common in bringing true life stories to screen, largely due to time constraints.
That the Chappell brothers are passionate about the game should come as no surprise to anybody.
Watson agrees, “Greg’s very outspoken but the thing I got from meeting him was that he knows his cricket back to front. So his knowledge of all things surrounding his profession is profound. So he has a right comment on everything that he feels fit to comment on and he speaks the truth.”
Playing Australian sporting legends was a labour of love for the ensemble cast, but it did come with its share of challenges, such as wearing coloured contact lenses for Ian Chappell’s blue eyes.
“I have a massive gag reflex in both eyes, so it took two optometrists for many hours trying to get them in myself, which I worked out was impossible in the end,” Watson insists.
“It was a big key to the character to have the blue eyes. In the end we got there with a lot of poking and prodding of the eyeballs.
“I wear them all day so by the time you get them out in the evening it’s the biggest relief. I think I’ve gone through about 5 to 6 litres of lens solution and Clear Eyes.”
Matthew LeNevez as Dennis Lillee and Brendan Cowell as plays Rod Marsh also had to endure colour corrective lenses.
“We’re all having a lot of trouble, primarily with the set-ups that have the smoke machine going. The smoke gets up underneath the lenses so they curl up or disappear up into the top of your eyelids.”
But the opportunity to portray some personal heroes was irresistible, and even though he only met Chappell for 2 hours, it was a meeting Watson won’t forget too soon.
“It was one of the most exciting meetings that I’ve had and hopefully it comes across the screen.”
Howzat: Kerry Packer’s War! concludes 8:30pm Sunday on Nine.