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.”