Jack Irish is one of Australian novelist Peter Temple's finest creations: a once-successful Melbourne lawyer whose career falls apart after the death of someone close.
He drifts into a life bounded by Charlie Taub's wood workshop, the racetrack where he skirts around the edges of the law, a pub full of Fitzroy football tragics and the occasional job as a private eye.
He is a complex person, closely bound to the life and pace of old Melbourne and its alleyways and colourful characters.
So who better to play Irish in two ABC adaptations of Temple's books, Bad Debts and Black Tide, than Melbourne-based actor Guy Pearce?
But Pearce has a busy international career, already appearing in the films Prometheus, Lockout and now John Hillcoat's Lawless this year and he is making Iron Man 3. Why did he decide to spend eight intense weeks making the Jack Irish movies?
"My agent let me know that Andrew Knight (Rake, SeaChange) and Matt Cameron (Newstopia, Micallef Tonight) were doing some ABC films directed by Jeffrey Walker and I pretty much knew from that moment that I was going to say yes to the role," he said.
"I am not sure which one of those elements clinched it for me but I think Jeffrey was a big factor. He is an absolute delight, so respectful and smart."
Walker is one of Australia's fastest-rising young television directors. Just turned 30, he had a successful career as a child actor (Ocean Girl, Thunderstone) and has since directed episodes of Rake, Angry Boys and Dance Academy.
But Pearce, who had not read the Temple books, also liked the Jack Irish character.
"As soon as I opened the first page of the scripts I just felt drawn in," he said.
"I think the realisation of the character and the way he deals with the situations he finds himself in was insightful, funny and light.
"The funny thing about Jack and his world is that he keeps finding himself in situations where he is saying 'How the hell did I get here? Why am I talking to this person, why does this keep happening?' So he is kind of a victim of circumstance but not in a morose way."
Pearce says that Melbourne, the city he still calls home, while perhaps not another character in the movies is certainly more than just where the action is set.
"You get the sense of the connection between the characters and this town," he said. "There are obviously the football references. Our films are set in the day when the Fitzroy Football Club has some years ago moved to Brisbane and there is a lot of talk in the pub about the good old days. It is done in a wry sense; Temple has quite a particular sense of humour.
"And you see the effect that the town has on the inhabitants. That was a really enjoyable part of it. It was shot in such a way that you see those backstreets of Fitzroy and you see Jack plodding along down alleyways heading home or off to the pub."
It was a difficult shoot for Pearce because both films were made together and he is in just about every scene. It was made worse when early in the shoot he had an operation to remove a kidney stone. But four days later he was back on set.
"I did have a difficult time," he laughed. "On Monday you would be doing scenes from Bad Debts and on Tuesday you would be doing Black Tide and I think we had a couple of days when we were doing scenes from both.
"It always takes me a while (in a film) to catch up on who's who and who is doing what to who. Doing both of the films together, I had to say to Jeffrey that with something like 90 speaking roles spread across two films you are going to have to put up with some stupid questions occasionally."
Those roles are filled by an extraordinary line-up of Australian actors. In the bigger parts, Crownies lead Marta Dusseldorp is crusading journalist Linda Hillier, Roy Billing is wealthy racing personality Harry Strang, Aaron Pedersen plays his strongman, Cam, and Shane Jacobson is the seedy police detective Barry Tregear.
After that it is a matter of playing spot the face as a parade of fine actors, including Colin Friels, Steve Bisley, Emma Booth, Don Hany, Diana Glenn, Rhys Muldoon and Martin Sacks, take minor roles.
Pearce waves aside the suggestion that they were there to work with him but agrees that the cast includes just about the entire Australian film community.
"It was a great experience, even just doing the read-throughs when we had the majority of the cast there was fantastic," he said. "The unfortunate thing was that a lot of people only came in for a day and then went."Bad Debts airs Sunday at 8.30pm on ABC1. Black Tide airs Sunday, October 21.
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