If you’ve been watching Ian “Molly” Meldrum on TV for years and think you know a lot about the former Countdown host, the Molly biopic on the Seven Network is likely to surprise.
“Viewers will learn a lot about the man they thought they knew well; there are many dimensions to Molly,” says John Molloy, who is producing the two-part program in Melbourne.
Meldrum wanted Samuel Johnson to portray him, which happily coincided with the views of Molloy, director Kevin Carlin and the network. “Molly knew Sam and really trusts him,” Molloy tells IF on Thursday, day 14 of the 37-day shoot.
The supporting cast includes Tom O’Sullivan (Wonderland, Packed to the Rafters) as executive producer Michael Shrimpton and T. J Power (The Little Death, Underbelly) as producer-director Rob Weekes, who co-created Countdown with Meldrum in 1974.
The show ran until 1987, launching and supporting the careers of dozens of acts including INXS, Skyhooks, Sherbet, Paul Kelly, Split Enz, Men At Work, Little River Band, Richard Clapton, The Go-Betweens, Models, Spy Vs. Spy, Sharon O'Neill and Australian Crawl.
At its peak it drew 3 million viewers when Australia’s population was less than 16 million, Molloy says.
Aaron Glenane (Foxtel’s upcoming Deadline Gallipoli, Home and Away) plays Mushroom Records founder Michael Gudinski and Krew Boylan (Schapelle, A Place to Call Home) is singer Lynne Randell.
The screenplay by Matt Cameron and Liz Doran chronicles Meldrum’s rise from his humble early life in the northern Victoria town of Quambatook to become one of the most powerful names in Australian music.
Andrew Anastasios, who co-wrote The Water Diviner with Andrew Knight, is the script editor. Craig Barden, who worked with Carlin on FremantleMedia's Wentworth, is the DoP.
While the story is inspired by The Never, um, Ever Ending Story, Meldrum’s autobiography published last year, Molloy says, “He has given us a lot of licence to create the TV show. We’ve tried to stay true to the spirit and vibe of his life during the creation of the Australian music industry. We will focus heavily on Countdown and on his circle of close friends.”
There will be some cameos of famous people whom the host interviewed or befriended but we will have to wait for the miniseries to find out which ones.
The production company is M4 Entertainment, comprising Molloy, Gudinski and talent agent Mark Morrissey. Screen Australia and Film Victoria are among the investors and Mushroom Pictures is handling international sales.
Meldrum is serving as a consultant but he hasn’t been on set yet as he’s in Thailand. Molly is due back in March and Molloy is expecting a visit.