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While watching the recent Australian Tennis Open I became obsessively fixated on the same thought.
Why has no one done a television biopic or documentary on “The Woodies”?
For anyone under 30, “The Woodies” was the nickname given to Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde – one of the greatest doubles combinations in tennis history.
I can say with a high degree of confidence this tennis duo would easily slide into the most desirable of categories Aussies reserve for their sporting gods: GOAT.
The story about the Woodies writes itself, as the showbiz saying goes. It is TV gold.
It all started pretty crap – the pair got thumped in their first match together in 1990. In the early days, there were moments when the right and left-handed combination appeared to move across the court with the speed, elegance and grit of Russian ballet dancers.
Despite an unconvincing start, by the time Woodforde hung up his racket 10 years later the sporting tandem had won 11 Grand Slams, including six Wimbledon.
During a dominating decade on the court the Woodies finished with a staggering 61 ATP tournaments titles, an Olympic Gold medal and a Davis Cup.
Both players are in the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame and are immortalised in bronze statues outside Melbourne Park (even though Woodbridge’s one looks like a young Ricky Ponting).
That’s half the show right there, episodes one to three are in the can. The next three episodes could unpack their ruptured friendship after their playing days. Woodforde’s yearning pleas in the media to rekindle their on-court love affair. Woodbridge claiming he is still chummy with his old doubles partner.
Who doesn’t want to see that on the small screen?
I am not talking about some dumbed-down, exaggerated made-for-TV melodrama. Several talented Australian writers, producers and directors could deliver an intriguing, enthralling, emotional retelling of their lives.
However, if there is going to be an honest reimagining of The Woodies, we cannot just wilfully ignore their frosty relationship.
Maybe some TV executives from a major streaming service are putting together a script as I type. Maybe I am experiencing that synchronised moment called ‘multiple discovery,’ where two people from opposite ends of the earth come up with the same idea.
Like when mathematician Gottfried Leibniz discovered calculus around the same time as Isaac Newton. DreamWorks releasing ‘Antz’ six weeks before Pixar’s ‘A Bug’s Life’ (although this very calculated phenomenon is referred to in cinema land as ‘twin films’).
If a TV miniseries that dramatised the Woodies got the green light, there is that troublesome problem of casting actors who grew up playing stuff all sports.
You can make an actor look admirable and worthy playing a musical instrument or riding a horse, but unsporting thespians tend to come across as gangly, uncouth and jarring when portraying athletes.
I become an avid reader after watching actor Jim Holt’s painfully awkward imitation of English firebrand Douglas Jardine in the 1984 TV series ‘Bodyline’.
There is a dazzling array of wonderful Australian actors that could play the major characters in the Woodies’ biopic. .
Australian actor Jacob Elordi who is garnishing attention for his brilliant performance as Felix in the movie ‘Saltburn’ could play Woodforde.
Lee Halley who is magnetic as Gus in the Netflix series ‘Boy Swallows Universe’ would be a shoo-in to portray Woodbridge. He already has a mullet.
Given the legendary John Newcombe was Davis Cup captain in 1999 when the Woodies helped the Aussies win the cup for the first time in 13 years, he would need to be wedged into the series somewhere.
I have Hugh Jackman pencilled in to play Newk. The Wolverine actor is probably not going to win an Emmy Award for his role (remember the Eddie the Eagle movie?) but could easily grow a dirty mo in a few days.
Benedict Cumberbatch would be my first pick, but the fans would tune out if an Aussie did not play Newk.
Sweden’s Jonas Bjorkman, who teamed up with Woodbridge later in his career, would be a key player in the show as he appears to be at the centre of The Woodies’ bitter fallout.
If the rumours are true, Woodforde is gutted his old sparring partner kept playing with the Swede on the legends tour instead of himself. One of the 17 or so Skarsgård siblings could portray Bjorkman.
The plot might need an injection of creative enthusiasm though, as Todd and Mark were always charming, erudite and obnoxiously polite on and off the court.
I just could not imagine either of them snorting coke off a piece of Louis XVI furniture in some swanky Paris hotel after winning the French Open, then ringing reception and saying “Hey, it’s one of the Woodies here – we are expecting 15-20 women who are extras in the musical version of Coyote Ugly currently showing at the Théâtre du Soleil. Just show them up to our room when they arrive – oh, and send up 47 bottles of champagne.”
Undoubtedly, that would be a ratings winner, but it sharply departs from the truth. You will never find any salacious or scandalous gossip online about the Woodies.
Admittedly, Woodbridge had that mild misdemeanour where he spent a night in the slammer in Atlanta in the lead-up to the 96 Olympics, for a misunderstanding with a female guard at the games.
Far from compelling viewing.
If streaming services are reluctant to stump up the coin for at least a six-part mini-series, then a GoFundMe needs to be set up for a documentary.
It could be Australia’s answer to ‘The Last Dance’, the docuseries that chronicled basketball superstar Michael Jordan’s final year with the Chicago Bulls in 1998.
Even the four-part documentary ‘Beckham’ is undeniably brilliant. I mean for the love of God, if documentarians can make Posh Spice and former Manchester United star David Beckham look fascinating and surprisingly captivating, imagine the story of the Woodies.
Someone needs to make it happen. Now.