Underbelly: Reality vs fiction: your guide to the characters 30

[Added May 8, 2009: What did I think of the new Underbelly series?]

Underbelly, the Nine Network’s new multi-million dollar series debuting on February 13 at 8.30pm, is a dramatisation of the real life Melbourne crime wars of the 1990s and early 2000s. Blending the documented journalistic account from John Silvester and Andrew Rule’s series of books with no doubt a little dramatic licence, the film-makers have gathered an all-star quality cast of Australian actors for what looks like an amazing production.But how does it stack up to reality? In a gangland war that was played out very much in the mass media as much as anywhere else, many of these real-life criminal figures became quite well known. We compare the main real-life figures of Underbelly with their fictional counterparts:

(Note: We’ll avoid overt spoilers as to the fate of these “characters”, since it might ruin parts of the story for those of you not too familar with the real life events.)

Alphonse GangitanoAlphonse Gangitano
Alphonse Gangitano was a bit of an enigma really — grew up in a crime-free family, educated at a private school, but drawn to a life of crime. He was a “show gangster”, deeply influenced by classic DeNiro movies and as interested in the image of gang life as the reality. Indeed, some police even dispute just how deeply involved he was in Carlton crew activities. His murder, like nearly all in the crime war, is unsolved, though it was suspected to be an inside job.

Vince ColosimoVince Colosimo
Gangitano is played by talented Aussie actor Vince Colosimo, who was been building a steady and impressive resume, including some US work on The Practice and recent work as an ultimately-corrupt cop on Seven’s City Homicide. Top marks to the makers of Underbelly for finding a top-notch actor who bears such a remarkable resemblance to Gangitano.


Carl WilliamsCarl Williams
Carl Williams spent most of the Melbourne crime war as an unknown, only emerging near the end as a major player when so many of his adversaries were dead. He was the usurper that moved in on the Carlton crew’s territory, taking huge profits out of the anphetimines business. Short, fat and remarkably unnattractive, he was nevertheless easily prone to violence, and clearly attractive to women who crave power, if his string of leggy blonde girlfriends and later wives is anything to go by.

Gyton GrantleyGyton Grantley
Gyton Grantley doesn’t have much of a profile in the acting world, despite a long resume in local soaps including Headland and Home and Away. But he’s a good choice again — if he can show the acting chops, he’s a dead ringer for the real Williams.


Jason MoranJason Moran
Jason Moran was the leading light of a major Melbourne crime family that went back several generations. He is probably the real badass of this story, with several convictions for violent attacks, a background in drug-dealing, and a seriously unpleasant streak of ruthlessness. He was suspected in the 1999 shooting attack on Carl Williams that really started the gangland war, and in return, Williams is suspected of wounding him several years later. Moran’s death in 2003 was a particularly brutal and public murder that became one of the more high-profile gang killings of all time in Australia.
Les Hill as Jason MoranLes Hill
Les Hill will be familiar to local TV viewers for his long stint in the early- to mid-1990s on Home and Away. Hardly a background for Australia’s great actors, Hill disappeared for a while, with some ads and more Home and Away guest appearances his only real work of note. However, with his casting in Underbelly, things seem to be picking up for him. Not the dead-ringer for his real life counterpart that Colosimo and Grantley are, but not a bad likeness, either.


Mark MoranMark Moran
Mark Moran was the quieter (relatively speaking) half brother of Jason Moran, and while he kept a much lower profile, he was said to be just as ruthless. His end also came a lot quicker in the Melbourne gang wars.

Callan MulveyCallan Mulvey
Callan Mulvey got his start with a long-term role on TV’s Heartbreak High, then had a serious setback after he was almost killed in a 2004 car crash near Byron Bay. Things seem to be looking up for him with this role, after a long rehabilitation process following that incident. He’s also got a big current role on Home and Away. Again, like Les Hill, not a massive likeness for Moran, but early reviews have him getting the mood for the character perfectly.


Mario CondelloMario Condello
Condello was a lawyer who became as corrupt as the criminals he once defended. Intensely close to the Carlton crew and more adept and directing crime than committing it, his involvement ultimately led to his trial for attempted murder, but his own murder brought that trial to an end.
Martin SacksMartin Sacks
Former Blue Heelers star Martin Sacks plays Condello — a different role for an actor best known for playing a likeable TV cop. A pretty-good likeness for the real figure.


Tony MokbelTony Mokbel
Tony Mokbel is a rare character in this story — he’s still alive. And for a time, he was even a free man, having fled Australia in 2006 during his trial for cocaine dealing. But that freedom was fleeting after his high-profile arrest in Greece last year. Still in jail in that country, his future is uncertain. What is even more uncertain is what kind of role the character of Mokbel would play in Underbelly — as the only significant player in the whole gangland war with criminal charges still pending, the show’s writers could face some legal troubles depending on what they choose to depict him as being involved with.
Robert Mammone
Robert Mammone

Robert Mammone must be getting used to playing criminal figures now, having played chief villain Craig Lukevic in Foxtel’s well received drama Dangerous last year. The usually suave Mammone is only a basic likeness for Mokbel, but apparently he put on 15kg for the role to get into character.


Mick GattoDomenic “Mick” Gatto
Mick Gatto really is the lucky one in this whole story. Despite having a string of convictions and serving jail time for offenses including burglary, assaulting police and illegal firearms, he is currently a free man and likely to stay that way unless he does something really stupid. Best known for a 2004 restaurant shoot out that led to murder charges. He was ultimately found not guilty on the grounds of self defense, a judgement that still has some police seething.
Simon WestawaySimon Westaway
As a former cop, best known for playing cops on TV, it must be interesting for Simon Westaway to be turning to the other side of the law, playing the definitely shady, but obviously clever Gatto. Familar in the past for his suave and dark-haired good looks, Westaway turns in a chameleonic performance here, looking much older, and with a grey, receding hairline — a good resemblence for Gatto. Mick was probably impressed, as he was the only figure in this story in any position to provide technical advice to the production.


Lewis MoranLewis Moran
A veteran of the Melbourne crime scene, Lewis Moran was the patriarch of a crime clan starring his son Jason and stepson Mark. He didn’t look like a criminal, but his crime past stretched back to the 1960s. His shooting death in 2004 was the most public of all the gangland war murders, and caused police to seriously ramp up their efforts to end the spree.
Kevin Harrington
Kevin Harrington

Lewis Moran is played by the versatile Kevin Harrington, not the first actor anyone would associate with playing a crime figure, but maybe that’s fitting for a figure such as the senior Moran. Harrington is best known for his comedic role in the successful 2000 feature The Dish as layback Dish technician Mitch. Not a massive likeness for Moran, but he should have the acting chops and create the right mood to pull it off.


Graham “Munster” KinniburghGraham “Munster” Kinniburgh
Graham Kinniburgh was the elder statesman of Melbourne crime, with decades of involvement with both the infamous Painters and Dockers union, and later the Carlton crew. He lived through several gang wars and saw a lot of friends or associates die by the bullet before he met his end the same way in 2003.
Gerard KennedyGerard Kennedy
Kinniburgh is played by TV legend Gerard Kennedy, another actor best known for his work in police dramas. He’s been on Australian TV almost since the beginning, and this is his highest profile TV role in several years. Conveying the same elder statesman image, Kennedy isn’t enormously similar-looking to Kinniburgh, but there’s no questioning his skill as an actor.


Andrew “Benji” VeniaminAndrew “Benji” Veniamin
Andrew “Benji” Veniamin was one of the nastiest and most dangerous characters involved in the whole Melbourne crime war. Put simply, he was a hitman for Carl Williams, and is personally believed to have committed a number of the murders during the war. He met his end equally violently, and even more controversially.

Damien Walshe-HowlingDamien Walshe-Howling
The heavily-tatooed, ultra-violent Benji Veniamin is played by Damien Walshe-Howling, best known for his multiyear stint on Blue Heelers as local copper Adam Cooper. So this will be a big change for him — and he seems to bear a pretty good resemblance to Veniamin.


Judy MoranJudy Moran
As the matriarch of the Moran clan, Judy Moran was one tough lady, always involved but never directly implicated in the activities of her husband and children. She was close enough to the war to have been targeted by associates of Carl Williams, but to date she remains unscathed.

Caroline GillmerCaroline Gillmer
Caroline Gillmer is a veteran of Australian TV, first coming to prominence in the classic women’s jail drama Prisoner. More recently, she’s been seen in Brides of Christ, Neighbours and MDA. She’s a fairly good likeness for Moran, and has been one of the few cast members to deal with criticism from the real person she’s playing.


Roberta WilliamsRoberta Williams
Carl Williams attracted a constant parade of attractive young women to his side, drawn by his power, money and ruthlessness more than his looks. Roberta Williams reached the top of the heap and became his wife, but in the last few years, even she has been thrown aside as Carl faced trial with a new, younger, buxom blonde by his side. She’s also had her fair share of high-profile, if relatively minor, legal problems.
Kat StewartKat Stewart
Kat Stewart has been keeping close to crime recently with her major role in last year’s City Homicide. Also seen in SBS’s drama Kick and comedy Newstopia, this should be a major break for her. She’s again, quite a good likeness for the now bitter Roberta Williams, and has had to deal with a lot from her real life doppleganger.


(Note: Pictures come from Nine’s Underbelly Web site, and various news media sources, which I believe should count as fair use in this context. If you don’t like that, just ask me to remove it.)Related posts:Underbelly: Now Channel Nine could be in a bit of troubleUnderbelly: Ridiculous media suppression

30 thoughts on “Underbelly: Reality vs fiction: your guide to the characters

  1. Reply Diss Mar 7,2008 2:29 am

    Oh please do try to get some pics up there. I’ve been trying to find a site that gives info and pics of the real characters as well as the actors for comparison.

    Cheers

    Diss

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  4. Reply bobby Apr 7,2008 5:49 am

    nzUbzR Hi! Nice site! Where is a add to favorite button& 😉
    http://www.mysite.com

  5. Reply Wuddy Apr 10,2008 1:22 pm

    In the show, who’s the bearded guy with glasses who’s always plotting with Carl (and Dino)???

  6. Reply Steve Apr 10,2008 4:11 pm

    The bearded guy … he’s a real life figure, but like several other characters he can’t really be named properly. All he can be known as formally is “The Driver”. Slight spoiler …

    He’s one of the people that finally turn on Carl. So he’s a protected witness and can’t legally be named. Same goes for the character played by Alex Demetriades (who is only known as “The Runner”).

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  8. Reply Alx May 10,2008 3:01 pm

    The Runner’s real name is Victor Brincat
    The bearded drivers name is Thomas Hentschell

  9. Reply scallywag May 20,2008 11:00 pm

    who was col carpenter? Sorry don’t know the real actors name just his well known character’s name

  10. Reply Steve May 21,2008 12:51 am

    “Col Carpenter” is actor Kim Gyngell, and he played another one of the “cannot be named” characters I mentioned above, like “The Runner” and “The Driver”.

    His codename from the police is “The Journeyman”, though I believe he’s actually been named recently in the Lewis Moran murder trial. Not sure if it’s the same guy though.

  11. Reply Steve Jun 5,2008 2:20 pm

    Dino was played (and played well, mind you) by Daniel Amalm. He had a stint on Home and Away where he played ‘Jack’ (correct me if I’m wrong).
    He also plays in a band and has recently completed a film called “Two Fists, One Heart”, shot in Western Australia.
    Prior to his role on Underbelly he worked as a ‘bouncer’ in a few clubs in Brisbane where he was always called Jack by a procession of females and concerned workmates (I’m having a poke at him!).
    Quite fitting he should play a character who shoots dead a ‘bouncer’.
    I would like to wish him the best of luck for future performances.

  12. Reply Graham Jun 7,2008 12:36 am

    I have a Greek friend in Adelaide who looks so so so so much like Alphonse Gangitano, the resemblance is truly remarkable ! However he is not a gangster, he is a Doctor !

    If anyone in Australia ever wants to see what the real Alphonse Gangitano looked like, look for a man called “Nick White” in Mile End, what a guy !

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  14. Reply Tahlia Jun 20,2008 2:24 pm

    Just found this – great site!! I disagree on a few of the comments though – I think Callan Mullavey looks more like Mark Moran than Kat Stewart looks like Roberta for example. But the series was great and all the actors did an awesome job, even the ones that didn’t look much like their characters pulled the gig off perfectly.

  15. Reply amy=) Jul 18,2008 11:46 am

    yumooo Damien Walshe-Howling f***n hot as lol and soo is Callan Mulvey yum yum lol and yea i rekon the show was wikd !!!!!! we didnt get it here but i bought the dvd

  16. Reply interested Aug 5,2008 9:57 pm

    I have seen video footage of Jason Moran and Les Hill has perfected all his mannerisms – hte walk, the shoulder hunch, etc. Great acting!

  17. Reply Graham Sep 19,2008 12:39 am

    The resemblance is truly remarkable !!
    I have over 20 photos of the late Alphonso and you would swear you were looking at the real Gangitano !

    I think Channel 9 should cast Nick White for the next series !! You can find him in Adelaide (Mile End) – he even wears the Italian shoes and flash suits…

  18. Reply Graham Oct 20,2008 12:16 am

    Alphonse Gangitano lives in Mile End, Adelaide ?
    What do Templestowe, Melbourne and Mile End, Adelaide have in common ??

    I often wonder how it could be that one man looks so alike to another…This man that he looks like just happens to be the late Alphonse Gangitano of Glen Orchard Rd., Templestowe, Mebourne.

    He even drives a large dark coloured German V8 sedan with darkened windows, wears Italian suits/ shoes with slick-back dark hair. You should see the resemblance !!

  19. Reply Bris Nov 27,2008 10:02 pm

    This is an amazing peice of australian gangster moment. glad to have witness this i can’t wait to show this tv series to my friends overseas and see what they think.
    I absoulutely loved it. The cops were never in control the bad boys sorted themselves out haha. all i can say is dumb ass cops they need to go get a real education. 6mth to become a cop is stupid.

  20. Reply Bitten By Design Nov 28,2008 2:55 pm

    I find the first series and the upcoming series really off putting. Much like the chopper movie, I remember seeing the Tv reports, and the news articles, and seeing it all develop.

    Now seeing it again brings back old memories and gets under your skin when you know these things have happened in real life.

  21. Reply Leesa Dec 20,2008 3:36 pm

    Excellent comparison guide.
    Would love some more facts on other key gangster/characters and actors.
    Brilliant

  22. Reply jonnoo Mar 22,2009 1:25 pm

    Victor brincat is the runner and thomas hentschell is the driver

  23. Reply Simon Apr 20,2009 12:03 am

    Hi,

    Pretty interesting website. However, the picute of Robert Mammone is incorrect. That is not Robert Mammone, rather the actor who played Greg Workman that is shot in episode 1 by Gangitano.

    Other than that thanks for the info

    Cheers

    Simon

  24. Reply Pam May 8,2009 2:00 am

    Does anyone have pics of the Tale of Two Cities reality vs fiction?

  25. Reply Schenk Von Graf Hoffmann Jr Jul 18,2009 3:33 pm

    Evening from the great white north or Canada being a Commonwealth only much more snow i must say we have had our share of crime wars too and made to television specials also like the Province of Quebec Biker Wars 1990,s that claimed at least 100 lives in a few years time and made Maurice MOM Boucher LES HELLS Godfather a media star too only leather clad with an army of bikes ….bodies…..and bombs regardless our cultures are alike in many ways …

    I read all about the Melbourne Wars and have been trying to find the series UNDERBELLY anywhere i can and it is hard to track can anyone give me a heads up ?

    On a final note the Aussie Underworld seems very olde fashioned in that the gangs seem to be run in a Bugs Moran Al Capone style and generations of family seem prone to it as a tradition so i have become a real big fan of Australian True Crime and find it even more interesting than our own or the USA next door and all their overhollywood chokehold on the culture of crime while it is a world phenomenon so hats off to Australia and my regards to the people who died who seemed like they could have been good company for a few cold beers and a laugh only gone to the violence of the street and their families without them and on a final note (Do you ever notice the ones in the wars who never get killed are the ones who never leave the house or come out of the machine gun packed basements while the ones that do are taking care of their business fight flight or hide ?

  26. Reply Steve Jul 21,2009 10:47 am

    Thanks for your response Mr Schenk… you should be able to get both Underbelly series DVDs from EzyDVD, a local online retailer. You’d have to have a region free DVD player of course, and play PAL discs.

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  28. Reply Stella Nov 5,2013 3:32 pm

    The Runner: Victor Brincat is a piece of crap, his father was a lunatic too, no wonder he turned out like he did. He is a danger to everyone, I hope they never let him out of jail.

  29. Reply Jeff Wilson Mar 21,2014 7:14 pm

    Kim Gyngell played Keith Faure. A guy with loooong criminal history

  30. Reply Aidan Jul 31,2015 9:12 pm

    “The Runner” is really named Victor Brincat, he is an armed robber who had a long criminal history before he met “The Fatboy” He is known to have ran up to 1km to his getaway car from armed robberies, hence the name “The Runner”. Hes alleged to have done the Jason Moran and Pasquale Barbaro murders (The Cross Keys hotel, Strathmore. June 21st 2003), The Willie Thomson Murder (Mixed Marshall Arts gym, Waverley and Warrigal Roads Chadstone, July 21st 2003) the Michael Marshall murder (Joy St and Williams Road South Yarra, October 25th 2003, the last murder he did for the fatboy and before he was arrested and eventually rolled over) and he was alleged to be present during the Nik Radev murder with the infamous Sunshine crim, Andrew “Benji” Veniman, who was the alleged gunman.

    “The Driver” is Thomas Hentschell, he is a convicted rapist and drug dealer, and was the driver in all of “The Runners” murders, hence the name “The Driver”. He was also the alleged driver in the Mark Moran murder (Combermere St Aberfeldie, June 15th 2000) It was alleged he picked up Carl Williams but i personally believe it was Dino Dibra, this being the second murder he did (The first being that of Mad Charlie Hegyaljie) people say Dino also did the “Mad Richard” Mladenich killing, but i reckon that was Dinos mate Rocco Arico and i reckon Carl was the driver.

    And lastly, “The Journeyman” was Keith Faure, again, someone with a long criminal history. He was the guy who beefed with the late Chopper Read in Pentridge, you’d always hear chopper talking about him haha. He was a former armed robber who was linked to murders way before that of Lewis Moran (The Brunswick Club, Brunswick. March 31st 2004. It has been rumoured that his brother Noel was the trigger man and Keith was the driver) and its been speculated that he killed Lewis Caine on behalf of Carlton Crew identity, the late Mario Condello. Caine was gonna kill Condello being the reason the hit was put out. I cant tell you how “The Journeyman” came about though.

    And for those who are wanting to know who was behind the May 2004 slaying of Terence and Christine Hodson? Its been speculated that the hit was paid for by the millionaire drug bosses Tony Mokbel and Carl Williams on behalf of former, alledgedly corrupt drug squad detective Paul Dale, and that the hitman was Rodney “The Duke” Collins. Collins, in terms of Melbournes Underworld War, was little known, but he was known as a hitman and a dangerous one. He is the hitman alleged to have eventually killed Mario Condello in 2006 but i cant tell you any more killings he did,

    Just thought i’d clear that up.

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