How the strip was rebuilt for Last King of the Cross

See how Production Designer Sam Hobbs massively rebuilt the seedy strip of King's Cross in a theme park car park.


Standing idly in the car park of Raging Waters theme park in Prospect, western Sydney, I’m in awe of the construction going on for Paramount+ drama Last King of the Cross.

Production Designer Sam Hobbs (Danger Close, The Drover’s Wife, Les Norton, Gold) has been staggeringly and meticulously been building Darlinghurst Road King’s Cross of the 1980s.

It’s taken 14 weeks, 30 Construction & Staging workers, 3 Lighting Technicians, 2 Electricians, 2 Glaziers, 2 Art Directors overseeing an Art team and even 2 Kerbing Contractors.

Hanging behind the seedy Porky’s nightclub is a giant waterslide, but it will disappear from view by the time Director of Photography Bruce Young has finished framing the action.

The 10 part series starring Lincoln Younes, Claude Jabbour & Tim Roth inspired by the biography of John Ibrahim is massive in scale, with 350 Speaking Roles, 60 Vintage cars, 90 Stunt People, 300 Crew and 2353 different costume looks for the Extras and Stunts.

With 150 individual scenes on ‘the Strip’ Hobbs also knew he had no hope of filming on real Sydney streets, either in existing King’s Cross or, as Underbelly: Golden Mile did, Lane Cove.

“None of those options were possible and really our shows are much bigger than that. It’s simply impossible to control anywhere in Sydney for that long. So it wasn’t ever really an option to use a real space,” he said.

“I also wanted to be able to be inside and outside, on the strip. So it mattered to us that we had different systems for interior sets, that would look onto the strip. Because by doing that, it allowed us a lot more latitude to create a real world. If it was only skin deep, it would have been really inadequate for the way the show was designed.

“And I needed to build it to a height where we weren’t having to do a huge amount of digital set extension all the time. I wanted to set to stand up to being ‘in camera’ and not having to be worked on too much in post production.”

Hobbs constructed a ‘modular’ set recreating infamous locations from the Cross, following painstaking research.

“I read John’s memoir, I did a lot of research. I consulted with him about the the different clubs and how it functioned,” he explained.

“We read widely and we went to the real strip and did a lot of photographic study into the buildings and tried to bring that building vernacular into the design.

“John’s character’s world was around Porky’s and those spaces, so it had to satisfy the requirements with script in terms of the other players in the drama.

“Pinocchio’s and Cosmo which are two cafe-restaurants that were very important, there’s Stripperama, a tattoo shop, Lasers which was the gaming arcade where a lot of cocaine dealing was done.”



But there were also setbacks including an extended wet weather event and Hobbs is frank about what has been achieved on a limited budget.

“Big international productions occur in Sydney, but what’s different is that this is essentially a domestic production. It’s being made for Paramount+ internationally but it’s not Hollywood. It’s still an Australian TV production with those types of expectations on budgets,” said Hobbs.

The strip is also but 1 of 35 sets he designed, including hospitals, club interiors, house sets, police stations, undercover police stations -all of them period in style.



Despite the challenges Hobbs remains proud of the outcome and how his work has come to life thanks to the collaboration of departments including cinematography, lighting, costume, direction and cast.

“You can do the best job in the world. But sets do tend to look like sets. You can put as much detail and as much stuff into them as you can, but you need the other departments to help, really,” he added.

Last King of the Cross is now screening on Paramount+.


13 Responses

  1. I haven’t managed to finish episode one as yet , as the script and acting didn’t grab me – the usual crime cliches.The set is fine but its too damn clean !
    But the biggest problem about capturing authenticity seemed to be the fact that no one appeared to be smoking . Now back then probably every second person in the Cross would have have a ciggie and smoke would be everywhere.
    Occupational Health and Safety ? Looked just … wrong.

  2. What a great story and insight. I do love behind the scenes info.

    When I was an extra I loved seeing what was going on behind the scenes. Most other extras kept complaining they were bored between scenes – me not at all!!!!

  3. The set is a great effort. I don’t remember it being that clean! Sleazy – yes, with a few places to avoid if out walking at night. It would make a good back-lot tour in a TV show theme park somewhere. A few drunks in doorways and some working girls would add to the authenticity.

  4. I like the video posted on how the backlot was built and set. A good insight. We don’t see these “behind the scenes” videos much these days.

    The show itself does look good from the promos i’ve seen so far.

  5. How good is this, to be shown how shows are put together is educational in itself. I loved going for a wander through the Cross in the 60s and years beyond. It was the epitome of diversity in my opinion. There were all sorts roaming around jumping out of doorway trying to entice you in, the scary, weird and wonderful characters that inhabited the place we just intriguing, I even took my 20y old daughter there for her to get a first hand look and she was facilitated. This makes you realise how much effort, research, time and ingenuity goes into making a show and this is often overlooked when watching. This is the very reason a show is all encompassing and immersive for me because it’s not just story driven or actors it is so much more. This show just might explain why Ibrahim was nicknamed “Teflon John” too. I’ve read his book and he is a bit of a character and in someways the book explains why. Most intriguing is Ibrahim is not his real last name and that’s explained why in the book.

  6. Great piece David – should feel lucky we get insights into how the production side operates. Hope this comes to Ten later on to get a wider audience reach if you don’t have Paramount+.

  7. Super impressive set, and a great little read thanks David. Just a pity they didn’t spend more money on the script, I managed one episode and I was out. I didn’t need another 9 hours of a story centred around an unlikable person trudging through a well worn and unsurprising story.

  8. I think the set looks great. Maybe a little too polished but gives a great sense of nostalgia. Unfortunately the show itself is underwhelming. Nothing that we haven’t seen before.

  9. And this is why we need outdoor sets already built and then can be converted as required. Warner Bros studio has, universal etc. There needs to be one in Melb, Sydney and Bri at least. It’s nice having the sound stages, but without the outdoor sets to go along with it.

Leave a Reply