Has the Golden Mile given Ibrahim a soft underbelly?
If you’ve wondered why Channel Nine’s The Golden Mile painted such an endearing portrait of its leading “Underbelly” character, King’s Cross figure John Ibrahim, it might well be because he’s had a hand in how he was portrayed in the script.
Ibrahim – who paints himself as a publicity shy businessman annoyed by the fame generated by the show – was so concerned about his portrayal in Golden Mile, The Punch can reveal he even confronted an actor who turned down the chance to play the lead in the Channel 9 hit series.
Young Australian actor Les Chantery - star of 2009 Australian film Cedar Boys about Lebanese-Australian drug dealers in Sydney’s Western suburbs - rejected the opportunity to audition for the starring role of John Ibrahim in The Golden Mile out concern of having himself and other Lebanese-Australians typecast as thugs.
As Ibrahim’s preferred choice to play him, Chantery was approached by a large Ibrahim minder while visiting a bar understood to be partly owned by the King’s Cross property mogul earlier this year.
Chantery was reportedly told that Mr Ibrahim wanted to see him and was asked to accompany the bouncer to a private room within the exclusive Piano Room bar (the same bar where the second series wrap party was held).
In a room adorned with pictures of Ibrahim posing with some of Australia’s most beautiful woman, Ibrahim introduced himself and began to question his decision not to play him in the Golden Mile series - a role that producers of the show thought would have been perfect for the young Aussie actor having stared in Cedar Boys and appeared in an episode of SBS’s East West 101.
Ibrahim reportedly went as far as to ask Chantery whether he objected to play a Lebanese-Australian of Muslim background.
Chantery is understood to have nervously explained to Ibrahim that he held no such objection, but refused to audition for the part for fear of perpetuating the typecast of Australian actors of Middle Eastern backgrounds in crime related roles. The actor initially turned down the lead in Cedar Boys for the same reason.
Chatery, who is now based in Los Angeles, has told The Punch he did not wish to comment on the incident.
In 2004 Ibrahim was named by police in a court file as having been: “the subject of 546 police intelligence reports in relation to involvement with drugs, organised crime and associations with Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs.”
“He has previously been investigated for intimidation, extortion and organised crime. He was also the subject of a similar investigation by the Wood Police Royal Commission,” the court papers stated.
John Ibrahim has never been convicted of a crime.
While the actor who ended up playing Ibrahim, Firass Dirani, struck up a friendship with the nightclub owner, the producers of the show are refusing to say the extent of Ibrahim’s role in the script.
Executive producer and chief script writer of Golden Mile, Screentime’s Greg Haddrick, told The Punch was not aware of the meeting Ibrahim and Chantery, and denies John Ibrahim consulted on casting for the hit show.
However when directly asked by The Punch Mr Haddrick would not deny that John Ibrahim was an uncredited script consultant for the show, only saying he couldn’t comment on the script:
“I’m not going to comment over the script at all. It’s a policy for a whole host of legal reasons that we are just not commenting on consultants for the Underbelly series.
“Otherwise it opens up a complete . . . it’s too big a conversation. So it’s just not something we comment on,” the award-winning script writer said.
Mr Haddrick ruled out the possibility of John Ibrahim receiving any money as a script consultant: “He wasn’t paid by us full stop.”
When asked for a comment on the conversation with the actor or whether he had been a consultant on Golden Mile Mr Ibrahim gave a “no comment” reply through his lawyer Stephen Alexander.
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