Toby Wallace in ‘Romper Stomper’. 

When Toby Wallace was cast as the son of the former lover of Russell Crowe’s character in Stan’s Romper Stomper series, Geoffrey Wright was quick to dismiss suggestions the young actor is the next Crowe.

Wright, who wrote and directed the eponymous 1992 movie which starred Crowe as ultra-violent Nazi skinhead Hando and Jacqueline McKenzie as his partner Gabe, and is a co-writer and co-director of the series, was not being unkind to Wallace.

He meant firstly, there is only one Crowe, and secondly, that Crowe and Wallace played very different characters in eras 25 years apart – so comparisons between the two are pointless.

Even so, Wallace’s performance in Nicholas Verso’s horror/thriller Boys in the Trees reminded Wright of Crowe’s career-defining turn in Jocelyn Moorhouse’s 1991 drama Proof.

“I saw a lot of compressed energy in Toby which was not being exploited,” he tells IF. “That’s the exact same feeling I had with Russell all those years ago with Proof.

“There was a lot of competition from some very good people for the role. But I thought Toby best represented the compressed energy, like a coiled spring that wanted to be let loose.”

Wright, Daina Reid and Kiwi James Napier Robertson (The Dark Horse) directed the six-part crime drama/political thriller produced by Roadshow Rough Diamond’s John Edwards and Dan Edwards.

Scripted by Wright, Robertson, author/poet/rapper Omar Musa and journalist Malcolm Knox, the plot follows Wallace as Kane, who is estranged from his mother.

Kane infiltrates a far-right group named Patriot Blue led by Blake (Lachy Hulme), which clashes with a group of anti-Fascists. David Wenham is Jago, a right-wing shock jock and the cast includes Dan Wyllie and John Brumpton (who both appeared in the film), Sophie Lowe (The Butterfly Tree, Above Suspicion), Lily Sullivan (Picnic at Hanging Rock) as the leader of the anti-Fascists and  Nicole Chamoun (The Doctor Blake Mysteries).

The series is the brainchild of Wright and the concept was developed after he met John Edwards and his son Dan Edwards at Roadshow’s Jam Factory office. Wright wrote an outline which the producers pitched to Stan.

Dan Edwards had admired The Dark Horse and it turned out that Napier Robertson was a fan of the original Romper Stomper. John Edwards brought in Reid, a frequent collaborator, because he wanted a woman in the writers’ room and an experienced TV director.

The first two scripts were completed in January, which triggered Screen Australia’s investment.

The series addresses some hot-button contemporary issues. “Viewers will identify with situations they have seen many times in news bulletins over the last two years and on YouTube, “ Wright said. “We look at and explore various groups which are quite well defined in the press and on the internet.”

The producers regarded Stan as the natural home for the show. “There has been a great deal of tentativeness among some of the free-to-air networks to do drama which is contemporary and demands your attention,” John Edwards said. “Stan bought into that, our very specific finance plan and our capacity to deliver the show they wanted when they wanted it.”

John Edwards said another element which appealed to Stan was the emergence of President Donald Trump and Brexit, and in his words, “nut-bag Right-wing politics getting more and more towards the centre of our lives.”

Wright expects Romper Stomper will give Wallace’s career a major boost, observing, “He performed beautifully. He should have more confidence in himself and I expect he will in future. He is very strong and a somewhat misunderstood actor. I think he is assumed to be the softly-spoken kid next door but he is far more complex than that. There is lots of power there.”

As IF reported SundanceTV Global acquired the rights for Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Dutch-speaking Benelux, Iberia, Latin America, the Middle East, North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. Deals with numerous other territories are pending, handled by DCD Rights.

A Stan Original series, it will premiere on the streaming platform this summer.

Check back tomorrow for Wright’s revolutionary ideas on how to shoot content in smarter and more cost-effective ways, and his upcoming projects.

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