Aussie larrikin, comic genius, entertainment icon, Paul Hogan is all of these and more and it’s always with tongue planted firmly in cheek.
His international rise and subsequent personal hiccups have been the fodder of trashy magazines for four decades. It’s a classic ‘fish out of water’ story full of struggle, adventure, impossible dreams, Boys’ Own fun and thumbing one’s nose at self-important Hollywood types.
Hogan’s story is what the bio-pic style of TV mini-series is designed for. Enter Channel 7’s highly promoted two-part TV event Hoges.*
There is much of the story that is familiar—the Harbour Bridge rigger who, on a dare, enters a talent show and slays them in the aisles. The successful TV shows and Logie awards, the tourism ads (and the iconic line: ‘Put another shrimp on the barbie’), the hugely successful Crocodile Dundee, the Oscar nomination.
There’s also the much publicised and ultimately fateful relationship with his Crocodile Dundee co-star Linda Kozlowski, and the subsequent breakdown of his marriage to childhood sweetheart Noelene and his enduring mateship with John Cornell (who played Hoges’ hapless mate ‘Strop’ and also became Hogan’s producer).
But we also get to experience the private moments and the personal and family conflict. The Hogans were married at 18 and had five children.
In the lead role is the very talented actor, writer and director from Brisbane Josh Lawson (Anchorman 2) as the older Paul Hogan. Josh is a clever lad who completely inhabits the Hoges character with comic aplomb.
I directed Josh in a TV commercial in 1997 and, even as a teenager, it was obvious that he had what it takes to be a great performer. The role of Hoges is one that Lawson relished, stating that he was proud to play someone who had ‘helped show the world what is so great about this country and its people’.
Cleverly cast alongside Lawson as Noelene is Justine Clarke, always a solid performer, and Ryan Corr (Packed to the Rafters) as John Cornell.
What you won’t get with this series is a satisfying impersonation of Hogan but more a portrayal of his larger persona. You could get hung up on the hairpieces and minor location details (the series was shot in Brisbane) but that would cruel the spirit of the show and Hogan himself.
The series has been made without the complete endorsement of Hogan, who brushes the whole thing off as all a bit unnecessary, as he doesn’t consider himself much of an actor or his story to be of great significance.
For me Hoges is a reminder of the trail that Paul Hogan blazed for Australians on the world stage. In spite of his human failings he has left a legacy for Australian performers that continues to burn brightly.
*Hoges begins tomorrow, 12 February.
In his former life Salvation Army editor-in-chief Bruce Redman was an award-winning film-maker and producer.