by Dov Kornits

First published back in 1984, the character of Les Norton was the protagonist of Robert G. Barrett’s book You Wouldn’t Be Dead for Quids. A hilarious, wholly recognisable page-turner, it was immediately evident that this was made to be adapted into some form of screen content, and at one stage rugby league legend and media personality Matty Johns was going to be a part of a feature film project based on the material.

The character of Les Norton was a burly red-headed country boy from Queensland who is forced to move on the big smoke when things get a little hot for him in his hometown. A former rugby league player, and now a bouncer and constant fixer, the character appeared in further Barrett books The Real Thing (1986), The Boys from Binjiwunyawunya (1987), The Godson (1989), Between the Devlin and the Deep Blue Seas, and various others, ending with 2010’s High Noon in Nimbin. As per that last title, the books were filled with real Australian landmarks, with a particular focus on Sydney. Robert G. Barrett passed away in 2012, leaving a legacy that is now going to be turned into a 10-part series by the ABC, with directors such as Jocelyn Moorhouse, Fadia Abboud (Australian Gangster), David Caesar (Dead Lucky, Underbelly, Idiot Box) and Morgan O’Neill (Drift, Solo). It has been created for television by Morgan O’Neill, working alongside writers Christopher Lee (Paper Giants: The Birth of Cleo), Samantha Winston (Wentworth), Shanti Gudgeon (Wolf Creek), Malcolm Knox (Romper Stomper), and Jessica Tuckwell.

It will be produced by Daniel Edwards and John Edwards from production company Roadshow Rough Diamond, who produced 2017 drama series Romper Stomper and the upcoming series Australian Gangster. ABC Head of Drama, Comedy & Indigenous Sally Riley will work as Executive Producer with Andrew Gregory; Deeper Water Films’ John Schwarz and Michael Schwarz; and John Singleton and Jack Singleton, the latter obvious massive fans!

Cast announced are Rebel Wilson returning to Australia, David Wenham (a real life redhead) and playing Norton, Alexander Bertrand (Home and Away, upcoming in Australian Gangster, pictured below)

Although Les Norton was always a respectable fellow, in the current climate there is a danger that his exploits may be construed negatively, and Screen Australia’s Head of Content, Sally Caplan concurs. “Les Norton is an affable character that has proven popular with audiences in the best-selling book series. What excites me about this TV adaptation is that the creative team have included a slew of new female roles to go head on with the male characters established in the books.”

  • Frank McGrath
    Frank McGrath
    18 December 2018 at 7:06 pm

    That’s great news about Les Norton coming to the small screen. My first Les Norton book was “Wouldn’t be dead for Quid’s ” sitting in an Ozzie barbers shop in Brighton UK. After I emigrated to Adelaide and bought my Vespa, I wrote to Mr Barratt’s publisher and asked them if I could have all his characters painted on my Vespa, and they said yes, total cost was about $3000. Some years later the man himself turned up for a book signing in Adelaide and I had him pose on the scooter. We both looked pretty chuffed.
    Currently in the UK, but if it comes out in a box set, I’ll buy it.

  • David Bawden
    21 December 2018 at 2:11 pm

    Fantastic. Cannot wait. Read all his books and met him at Port Macquarie.
    Always entertaining. Great Australian fun. Good work ABC!!

  • Roy Galloway
    Roy Galloway
    27 December 2018 at 9:42 pm

    Great to see Les Norton being resurrected, I have all the books (except Les Nortons cookbook, which somehow I missed and is now not available) all the ebooks and all the audio books. I cant get enough of Les. Have read them all several times and listen to him on roadtrips, in the wide brown land of ours. I will definately buy the dvds.

  • Peter
    20 January 2019 at 1:30 pm

    This will be a complete joke.ABC and Barrett like chalk and cheese.Battle of Stalingrad as re-enacted by poofs and tree huggers.

  • Graham Cull
    Graham Cull
    19 March 2019 at 11:00 am

    Read all the Les Norton books. Can’t wait for the film series.
    How do I get a part in it.
    Wouldn’t be dead for quids!

    • Ted
      26 March 2019 at 7:25 am

      You should get a part in it…you’re just boofy enough, Gra!

  • Pete
    25 March 2019 at 12:01 pm

    I’m so excited, I cannot wait!
    I have read all of the books several times and still laugh out loud.
    Les Norton is an inspirational part of my life in many ways.
    RIP Robert.

  • Mitch.
    5 April 2019 at 4:02 pm

    Why tf does everything have to be changed to suit the do-gooders though?! Why does there need to be a more “female influence” to the show?!
    Just let it play out like the books ffs!

    • Dav
      15 April 2019 at 11:47 am

      “…in the current climate (political correct marxism – shaping and controling our freedom of speech) there is a danger that his exploits may be construed negatively” and Screen Australia’s Head of Content, Sally Caplan concurs (of course she does). “Les Norton is an affable character that has proven popular with audiences (because he is the opposite of pol.cor.marx.) in the best-selling book series. What excites me about this TV adaptation is that the creative team (thought police) have included a slew of new female roles to (fulfil female employment quotas) and go head on with the male characters established in the books (to further shove down mens throats a strong female ideal and emasculate a simple Aussie male centric yarn. Detouring into another conversation about powerful women, holding their own… at the expense of some humurous escapism. ” Just look what they did to Dr. Who.

  • Mark Eymes
    Mark Eymes
    15 April 2019 at 8:44 pm

    So good to hear this news courtesy of Australian Story but so sad that Bob Barrett isn’t around to see it. I loved every book and Les even wore my surf shop Australian Surfer HQ t-shirts in Day of the Gecko. I sent every book to my mate in Santa Cruz California and they are still being past around over there. Well done ABC!

  • Tiger Brown
    Tiger Brown
    15 April 2019 at 9:01 pm

    You are now entrusted with this legacy. Don’t f@#Kk it up!

  • Roden the rat
    Roden the rat
    25 April 2019 at 2:42 am

    Went and saw Moyra tested twice got part twice fell over twice script was shit .. l hope to this bloke can fight ……and take a a punch ….. if not it will be fucked … and the gingers will rise and as u know it’s not smart to piss off les … ps real scars please send him round l specialise in scars ….

  • Bruce
    4 May 2019 at 12:56 pm

    Knew ,Bob in the 70s when he lived @ Tamarama . As an author he had a fear of his character Les ( his alter ego ) looking lame on film .The books are not PC , dated when published , story wise , and won’t translate well .Dont do it !

  • Adam James Vaughan
    24 May 2019 at 5:41 pm

    As a young bloke of about 15 in 1985 I was given it to read by a mates older brother,as a 15yr old grommet, surfing everyday and partying, I only read the first half of wouldn’t be dead for quids, I dig it, yet was not a disciplined reader, too much surfing and partying to do!
    Yet, what I did read left an indelible mark in my psyche and I really want to finish the book.
    I look forward to seeing how it turns out, co’s I think we all had our pictures of what LES looked like and how he carried himself based on Robert’s writing, I distinctly remember “he had red hair and fists like hams” or something like that.
    I had the privilege of being a background extra in some prison scenes(wont say any more) co’s I may even end up on the cutting room floor, either way,it was fun and a privelidge and I did my best out of respect for ROBERT and being happy for him that his work was being honoured.
    Let’s hope what hits the screen does Robert proud.

    • Barry Smyth
      Barry Smyth
      5 September 2019 at 10:46 am

      Glad to hear you were in the show & confirms for me that we might see Les go to jail instead of paying a $53 fine from the story called St Kilda Cooler :)

  • Jim
    2 June 2019 at 8:16 am

    Think Robert would hate that a bunch of limp wristed art lovers have got a hold of his stash!

  • MrWobbly
    21 July 2019 at 4:38 pm

    For the love of god.
    Don’t stuff it up.

  • Jennifer Nebe
    Jennifer Nebe
    22 July 2019 at 11:11 am

    Don’t tame Les down and don’t put extra women in it. He is what he is…a typical Aussie !!! I love Robert G Barrett’s books. By the way, I am a 65 year old female with 5 grown children, 14 grandchildren and the first grandchild. I am an educated woman and I am NOT offended by Les Norton..nor any other of Robert’s books. In fact my favourite book of his, is ‘The Ultimate Aphrodisiac’. DONT SPOIL LES NORTON. Jenny

  • Garry corby
    Garry corby
    23 July 2019 at 11:31 am

    Finally he comes to the screen. Les Norton makes Jack Reacher look like a Boy Scout Especially seeing Reacher is played by Tom too short Cruise Well done ABC

  • Malcolm
    26 July 2019 at 11:55 am

    Have to agree with others..putting females in for the sake of it is BS. Love these books as lived in a semi detached in Wellington st Bondi back in the 80s and early 90s. His restaurant meals , fights and sexual encounters made great reading. Just recently got books down from the attic to read again. You can probably guarantee the ABC will stuff it up.

  • Kim Cabalzar
    Kim Cabalzar
    4 August 2019 at 8:13 am

    I agree. Don’t stuff it up.

  • Petet
    12 August 2019 at 12:13 pm

    This is one of the few times that I condone/agree with the producers PC-ing Bob’s words. They are strong and so well put together that they can withstand the small token’s of modern life. Beside, Kelly Club Manager, Brennan, didn’t exactly fly off the pages as a moral for cinematic excellence.
    My two cents.
    Watched Ep. 2 last night. Great, great stuff. Loved hearing Flowers’ “We Can Get Together” as well.

  • Owen
    13 August 2019 at 9:43 am

    Haven’t read any of the books, but I’m loving the series so far. I don’t know much about casting but the characters seem great to me as well, especially Les’. Probably a good thing I haven’t watched Home and Away though.

  • pete
    24 August 2019 at 11:43 am

    I’m shocked and stunned that
    a) ABC would go for a Les Norton series
    b) that so far they actually seem to have not botched it completely… hell to be fair, it’s actually quite good

  • Barry Smyth
    Barry Smyth
    5 September 2019 at 10:19 am

    Apart from the PC addition of a “Georgie” instead of George Brennan & the addition of the random brothel owner (Rebel Wilson) it’s been excellent, the writers have taken a lot of different stories from different books and mashed them together pretty well.

    Also, not really sure I’m that keen on the way that Billy Dunne has been portrayed, I don’t ever recall him being indigenous. In fact, the actor that played Les’s brother in Ep 2 looked more like the image I have of Billy in my mind’s eye.

    The only episode that I didn’t like them mucking around with was the Boys from Binjiwunyawunya, they turned the characters upside down IMHO.

    Other than that, I am reading the books again & I guess the ultimate compliment to Alexander Bertrand is that I picture his face as Les when reading.

  • Ellen Clarke
    Ellen Clarke
    12 September 2019 at 3:47 am

    thought Alexander Bertrand absolutely nailed his role as ‘Les Norton’ All the actors were great & it’s full of funny little punchlines & innuendo

  • Gordon Stevens
    Gordon Stevens
    16 September 2019 at 1:55 pm

    Yea Need to Raise $100 Mill and redo the entire Series properly

    Forget about the books , From owning his house and a Boarder named Wozza , he is now Renting from a chick called Lozza . No fighting , No rooting , stories all mangled PC madness at the most saccharine , vanilla blandness imanigable . All they missed is turning the Delicious into a Soy latte and giving him a twot knot..
    Rebel is pretty busy these days , everywhere it seems , I saw her in a weak remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels the other day as well , and as much as she is not Steve Martin , this story is not Les Norton

    All that aside . I cleansed my mind of the books and rewatched the eps up to The Real Thing (oh the Irony) this weekend …. It can stand on its own two legs as a series and carries that Barrett signature humor , so yea it gets a fun OK. Mr Inbetween knocks spots off it and is closer to what Norton should have been

Leave a Reply