INXS on camera

New mini-series captures the true story of the Aussie rockers

Time In

As Never Tear Us Apart hits iTunes, we go behind the scenes to see if the Aussie mini-series about legendary rockers INXS does the band justice.

The band crammed on stage at Bombay Rock are for the most part dressed in identical boiler suits. Little details mark them apart: guitarist Kirk Pengilly has just had his hair dyed black by the band’s manager, and the dye drips down his face under the stage lights; singer Michael Hutchence goes bare-chested, all the better to make the girls at the front squeal when he drops to his knees and arches his back. They may be playing a small dive – they often play two a day, in fact – but they move with confidence.

As well they should. It’s 1979 and INXS is fast becoming a tight live act, producing tracks such as ‘Just Keep Walking’, which will appear on the band’s self-titled debut album. INXS is soon to catch the eye of its long-term manager Chris ‘CM’ Murphy – but tonight, as Michael emotes through ‘To Look at You’, it’s teenager Michèle Bennett he locks eyes with. She will go on to become his lover and then lifelong friend –
the last person ever to speak to him, as depicted in the hotel scene that winds up this two-part drama.

Time Out is on the Never Tear Us Apart set at the Espy’s Gershwin Room, which is standing in for Sydney Road’s now defunct venue Bombay Rock. Artful lighting picks out Jane Harber as Bennett in the crowd, while a couple of dozen extras gyrate and bop around her.

It’s a surreal experience. For anyone who’s ever mourned missing a seminal band live in their heyday, being on set with the six actors playing INXS comes a convincing second. Drummer Ido Drent as Jon Farriss is always fidgeting with the kit in authentic sticksman style – in fact, Farriss and manager CM Murphy were insistent on finding an actor who could drum in real life. Equally real is the camaraderie between the band members: Drent (Offspring, Shortland Street); Luke Arnold as Michael Hutchence; Andy Ryan (Tomorrow When the War Began, Underbelly: Squizzy) as Andrew Farriss; Hugh Sheridan (Packed to the Rafters, I Will Survive) as Garry Gary Beers; Alex Williams (Underground, The Reckoning) as Kirk Pengilly and stage actor Nicholas Masters as Tim Farriss.

The actors have been living in the same hotel apartment for nine weeks, going on excursions to the football and the flicks together between set times – not to mention getting perms and hair weaves together.

‘When I was young, all I picked up on was Michael Hutchence,’ admits Andy Ryan who, like most of the other actors, is in his mid-twenties, ‘But we discovered people have a really strong affiliation with the individual members of the band; they have their own recollections and stories about them.’

He recalls, ‘I went to a guitar shop when I found out I got the role, to get some plectrums. I was playing a bit of the INXS back catalogue, a bit of funk strumming, and a guy said, ‘Oh yeah, I was a roadie for INXS all across Australia.’ He showed me all of Andrew Farriss’s guitars and the ones Tim Farriss used, and he had a bunch of stories about it. So we’d pick up little nuggets here and there about all sorts of people.’

Never Tear Us Apart keeps it focus on the band as a whole, rather than Hutchence. Part one is a joyride: a flash forward of playing Wembley in 1991, then back to performing on Countdown, supporting Adam Ant in the States, touring the world, and Hutchence’s relationships with Kylie Minogue (played by Samantha Jade) and Helena Christensen (Mallory Jansen). In part two, things start to fall apart, with in-band fighting, Hutchence’s head injury and his fateful relationship with Paula Yates (Georgina Haig).

One thing’s for sure: when the makers of larger-than-life primetime TV dramas take on the truly surreal lives of bona fide rockstars, the results are sure to be excessive.
Watch the two-part show for Dhs53 per episode, itunes.apple.com.

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