For a story that has been rife with conspiracy theories, it seems the saga is not yet done.
Nine’s telemovie has been shrouded in secrecy ever since it was announced in late 2012. Filmed late last year by FremantleMedia on closed Gold Coast sets, it was known by cast and crew under the phony title, “Doc McGee.” Cast were protected from a fervent Corby fanbase and filming was sought to be completed before a word could leak out it was even underway.
Director Khoa Do, 34, is no stranger to true-life stories, having directed 2013’s Better Man miniseries, the re-telling of the hanging of Van Nguyen in Singapore.
“I felt incredibly attached to that story, and I really saw that story through Van (Nguyen’s) eyes and with this one I really need to see it through Schapelle’s eyes,” he told TV Tonight.
“Schapelle is very different to Van in that he doesn’t have that profile. Van pronounced his guilt from the beginning and was subsequently found guilty. Schapelle pronounced her innocence from Day 1 and was found guilty after trial. So a lot of people have views about that.
“But with our story we’re going to tell the story predominantly through the eyes of Schapelle, Ron (Bakir, campaigner) and Robin (Tampoe, lawyer) and the legal team. Certainly the expectations on the telemovie are high.”
In the key role of Corby is Krew Boylan, best known for her roles in Cliffy, A Place to Call Home and Wild Boys.
“I thought it was an iconic Australian story that needed to be told in a way that hasn’t been done before,” says Do.
“There has been so much written about Schapelle, but in terms of a drama it’s comparable to the Lindy Chamberlain story in the 80s.
“It’s the ultimate dinner party conversation: ‘What do you think of her situation?’ and where do you sit in regards to that. Everyone has an opinion. At one stage it was 91% of Australians who believed Schapelle was innocent.”
Before his involvement in the project, Do says his knowledge of the case was equivalent to that of most Australians. The script by writer Katherine Thomson (Mr and Mrs Murder, Answered by Fire, Satisfaction, East West 101) was originally set to use Eamon Duff’s book The Sins of the Father. But the book has been the subject of legal proceedings by the Corby family, and a FremantleMedia spokesperson says Thomson’s research has extended much further to include many source materials.
Nine’s promos for the telemovie also suggest viewers will finally learn “the truth” of the story, but the network denies it has uncovered new evidence. Some have also criticised the timing of the telemovie as potentially jeopardising her impending release. Indeed, why not wait until she is released to include a final scene or coda to the story?
“This telemovie is really one that traces her time from just before she left (Australia) to not long after her verdict,” Do explains.
“We end soon after her verdict. I can’t say exactly when, but it’s very much a story about a young girl who finds herself in this situation, arrested in Bali and convicted of smuggling 4 kilograms of marijuana through her boogie board bag.
“I think the telemovie tells an empathetic view of her story. As a Director you can’t help but to bring your own vision and beliefs onto every project that you create. I suppose my entire body of work has always been one of trying to find the empathy with those whom others may not feel so empathetic towards and may not care too much about, or be quite strongly against.”
Also appearing in the telemovie are Jacinta Stapleton, Denise Roberts, Colin Friels, Les Chantery, Vince Colosimo, Francis Greenslade and Michael Croaker. With so much media coverage of Mercedes Corby, Rosleigh Rose and Ron Bakir, how difficult was this to cast?
“You don’t need lookalikes but you want to create a truthful world so the audience engages with the story,” Do says. “But with some of them they look very close to the real people. Especially in a story like this where Mercedes, Ron and Mick are very recognisable.”
Cast have been targeted through social media by Corby supporters for their involvement in the telemovie while the family, which had successfully sued the Seven Network and given interviews to Nine, also do not support the project. Nine has also not released the telemovie for media preview. Amid unusual circumstances, Do’s focus has been on the creative elements.
“It has been hard,” he concedes.
“Schapelle has a very ardent fanbase of supporters who will come out and voice their opinion very strongly. I’ve been in a position in the past where you potentially have people who disagree with what you’re making. Often it’s because they don’t know the full story behind it, which is unfortunate.
“Everyone thinks they know Schapelle, because they’ve seen her everywhere. So you’re presenting a Schapelle which, no matter how you present her, people have their views and opinions. But you need to stick to your vision and your belief that this is the story we want to tell.
“I hope people watch it and go ‘Wow, I really didn’t know that.’ Or they say ‘I’ve seen that moment.’ I saw that moment Live but I didn’t know she did that, or why. What’s the moment before and after those iconic moments?
“No matter what situation we find ourselves in there’s a reason why we’re there. ”
Schapelle airs 8:40pm Monday on Nine.