ABC TV investigates ASIO

14 December, 2009 by IF

Press release from ABC TV

I, Spry, the new dramatised documentary from the award-winning filmmaker of Who Killed Dr Bogle and Mrs Chandler?, went into pre-production on Monday, December 7, with filming to begin in late January 2010.


Produced for ABC TV by Anna Grieve and Peter Butt from Blackwattle Films, I, Spry uncovers ASIO’s intriguing history during the Cold War under enigmatic spymaster, Charles Spry.

ASIO’s first fumbling counter-espionage operations against Russian intelligence and a local spy ring leads Spry on a quest to reshape ASIO in his own image. The controversial, election-influencing Petrov defections of 1954 gives him unprecedented power. But Spry soon finds himself in a "wilderness of mirrors", where nobody is who or what they seem.

Tony Llewellyn-Jones (Curtin, GP), as Charles Spry, heads a cast of over 50 players, including 20 enthusiastic actors, cabaret performers and extras from the Russian community.

The dramatisations will be shot in Sydney and, where possible, at locations where real operations were carried out, including the apartment block where Vladimir Petrov defected over a meal of oysters.

Stuart Menzies, ABC TV, Head of Documentaries said; “Peter is a consummate storyteller. It’s wonderful to be working with him again to bring this extraordinary tale to life. Along with Who Killed Dr Bogle and Mrs Chandler? and The Prime Minister is Missing, this will make an important triptych about the history of our times.”

Peter Butt said; "Thanks to a mountain of newly-released documents, this film goes far beyond what we’ve been fed about spies and espionage in Australia during the Cold War.

Not only do we find that ASIO bugged phones and carried out surveillance on Soviet sympathisers, but we discover that the most important spies and intelligence agents in Australia during the period were women and that both a Labor Leader of the Opposition and a Liberal Prime Minister were considered security risks.”

He adds “If it weren’t all so serious, I would have loved to turn it into a musical."