Film-maker Al Rama has made an embarrassing public back-track over the non-appearance of criminal turned celebrity Mark ‘Chopper’ Read at a press gathering to unveil Read as the star of his new film.
Rama told reporters that Read – who is seriously ill – had collapsed, so could not attend the event, which was supposedly to reveal Read’s part in Melbourne underworld movie The Hurtin Kind Part One: The Albanian.
“I think his terminal cancer’s playing up on him,” he said in a video interview on The Age’s website. “He just sort of fainted. He got dizzy and collapsed as he was walking out to the car.”
However, Read later told The Age: “There is no movie. There is no movie set. There’s not even a cameraman.”
In a press statement released Rama, said:
“I saw Chopper on Sunday night, who agreed – with a hug and a handshake – to participate in a media conference to announce the filming, even though he has not been in good health.
“This morning, I sent a driver to his home to collect him, who then informed me that he was notified that Mark would not be available to attend the media call, due to his state of health.
“I addressed the attending media and notified them of this turn of events.
“Unfortunately, I made assumptions and addressed the media on Chopper’s behalf, without having permission to do so.
“It now seems that I have inadvertently upset a lot of people, and for that I apologise.
“This whole incident has obviously affected our relationship, but I still hold out hope that we can resolve things. Either way, production will still go ahead.
He told Mumbrella’s sister title Encore this morning that: “Ideally, I hope Chopper can come back on [the film]. If not, we’ll have to get creative.”
When asked if the incident had done damage to his reputation as a film-maker, Rama said: “I don’t know how to answer that. It was agreed over a handshake and a hug – he said he’d show up. There is lots of proof that we have a good relationship. Something’s happened.”
He added that he had called Read earlier in the day to confirm his attendance, but “it was a very bad line.”
The production schedule for the film – set for 15 November – has not been affected by the incident, Rama said. He denied that the appearance or otherwise of Read in the film would derail the project and hinder support from its financial backers.
“Chopper being in the film does hold a little bit of importance, but it’s not the major substance of the film,” he said.
“Someone can drop off, but it’s a good story – the concept alone is a seller. There’s plenty of meat for the American market.”
Read told the Herald Sun newspaper that the production for the film, for which he was paid a year ago to do some publicity for, had never got off the ground and he had not signed a contract to be in the film.