Abe Forsythe is the first to admit he had no idea John ‘Strop’ Cornell was pivotal to the revolution of cricket broadcasting in the 1970s.
As the son of actor Drew Forsythe, he was also too young to admire Cornell’s work in The Paul Hogan Show.
“I had no idea how integral he was to the whole world of cricket. I knew of him, not really as Strop, but because of the Crocodile Dundee movies. I remember Dad took me to see Crocodile Dundee II in Canberra when it came out,” he says.
Now Forsythe is playing Cornell in Nine’s two part mini-series Howzat!: Kerry Packer’s War.
“The whole experience has been a massive learning for me. I knew nothing about the world of cricket back in the 70s.
“Cornell took the idea to Packer and helped him develop it, so it feels like a great privilege to be playing him. Everybody I’ve spoken to when they’ve asked me about this story says ‘What did Strop have to do with it?’ When I tell them, everyone says ‘You’re kidding?’ Nobody knows about it.
“He’s one of the few we’ve ever had in this country that has a true creative and business brains. What they did with Dundee is incredible and he always seems to be thinking about ten steps ahead. They did those Australian Tourism ads for free as a way of breaking Hogan into the US market.”
It was a gem of an idea that Cornell took to Packer: to hire the best cricketers, all of whom considered themselves underpaid, and revamp television broadcasts -all of which had been on the ABC.
“He gave the idea to Kerry, he didn’t want anything in return. He just knew that Packer would be the person who had the balls to make it work. A few sources have told me he never yelled at Cornell, having a respectful admiration between the two of them.
“That’s what I loved about Paper Giants. They kind of got to the core of each person as we knew them but then you learned something else which rang true, and that’s what this does really well too.”
The series is produced by John Edwards and Mimi Butler and directed by Daina Reed. The script is penned by Christopher Lee.
These days Cornell lives quietly with wife Delvene Delaney (played by Cariba Heine) in Byron, but unfortunately Forysthe didn’t get to meet him
“I was going to meet him but we had to cancel at the last minute due to unforeseen circumstances,” he says.
“But it was fortunate that Chris Lee the writer spent a number of weeks with him and Delvene, so a lot of information has come directly from the source.
“Daina (Reid) and I decided that because I’m not playing a character like Richie Benaud or Packer where people know what they sound like, that I kind of have the benefit of not having to do an impersonation of someone. So Daina and I decided I can just follow the writing as opposed to trying to do ‘schtick.’
“So I have no idea if what I’m doing is actually what he was like but it certainly feels right in this story.”
More recently Forsythe has been directing ABC’s Laid, TV commercials and working on film projects, one of which will be based on the Cronulla riots.
“I want to be the first cab off the rank with the Cronulla riots. I’ve got a really good title for it but I’m very cautious not to announce it or do anything until it’s ready,” he says.
“The reason I’m directing commercials is so I can make enough money to give me the freedom to choose other things and this is one of those things. I thought “That would be fun!” and I get to play a grown-up and work with Daina and with a great cast.
“Ideally now I have a career where commercials pay the bills and I can take TV and acting jobs.”
Howzat!: Kerry Packer’s War airs 8:30pm Sunday August 19 and 26 on Nine.