Joey on the big screen
Daniel Lane | October 18, 2009
HIS life story has sometimes read like a soap opera but Andrew Johns’s battles on and off the field could soon screen in cinemas throughout Australia - and beyond.
The Sun-Herald can reveal there are plans to turn Johns’s best-selling book The Two of Me into a screenplay.
Former rugby league first-grader turned movie director and writer Max Mannix is the driving force behind the project. Since retiring from league, Japan-based Mannix has embarked upon a successful movie-making career.
Last year at the prestigious Cannes film festival he received the jury prize for the film based on his original screenplay Tokyo Sonata.
Mannix, 43, broke new ground for a Japanese-produced movie by having Tokyo Sonata released in the United States.
Renowned actor Gary Oldman appeared in his second project, Rain Fall.
The Johns project is very much still in the development stages, but in a brief email from Los Angeles - where Mannix is visiting as a member of a 10-person delegation pitching Australian movie ideas that might appeal to US investors - he confirmed an interest in doing something with Johns’s life story.
‘‘From here I head to the Tokyo Film Festival, so I won’t be back in Australia until 24 October,’’ he wrote.
‘‘I am hoping to catch up with Neil [author of Johns’s biography Neil Cadigan] to discuss the viability of all matters pertaining to Andrew Johns.’’
Cadigan, who is overseas, was unavailable for comment.
The Two of Me was a nationwide best seller which received widespread acclaim as Johns, regarded as perhaps the code’s greatest player, detailed his struggle with illegal drugs and depression.
Johns made international news in 2007 when he was arrested in a London Underground station for being in possession of an ecstasy tablet. It was the catalyst for him to ‘‘fess up’’ about both his bipolar condition and drug use.
His raw honesty in a televised interview with his former state coach and Sun-Herald columnist Phil Gould, and in his book, gained him widespread public sympathy. His admission also reinforced that regardless of an individual’s status in the community, no one is immune from bipolar, formerly known as depression.
The message behind Johns’s story, as a flawed but revered sports hero, is expected to be strong enough a storyline for the Australian Film Commission to provide funding.
Mannix, who has not studied formally and did not go to film school, would bring a true love of league with him.
In the 1980s and early '90s he played on the wing for Canterbury, Illawarra and Penrith. While at the Bulldogs, he earnt a place in league folklore by spilling the ball after launching a spectacular dive at the try line in a match against St George in 1984.
Mannix’s career ended when aged just 26, when he was crunched by a Rabbitohs forward while playing in a trial for the Panthers at Redfern Oval.
‘‘I ended up in a seated position and then he put his whole weight on top of me, crushing my neck,’’ was how Mannix previously described his enforced retirement.
‘‘I didn’t know it at the time, but he broke my neck. I couldn’t swallow, it was so uncomfortable and I was in a neck brace for a long, long time … my football career ended with that tackle.’’
Mannix travelled to Japan and for a while he worked to help league gain a toehold in the rugby-dominated nation. However, he lost heart when it was clear the international board had little interest in trying to push the 13-man game in Japan.
would be sickkkk