THE last thing you want while filming an explosion is an unwanted boom, but that's exactly what director Karl Zwicky has spotted on the set of Squizzy, the latest instalment in the Underbelly franchise. ''Boom, boom,'' he yells, like an excitable child pretending to be a cannon, as he spots a microphone at the edge of a five-camera shot that he'll only get one go at. ''Get that boom out of there.''
Seconds later, Zwicky calls action and - BOOM - the door of a bank vault explodes into the air, papers flutter upwards on a cloud of acrid smoke, and a man 30 metres away appears to be blown backwards by the blast. Mission accomplished, it's time for lunch.
''It's a quick, intense shooting schedule,'' Zwicky says in the catering tent set up directly across the road from Pentridge, the former prison-turned-housing estate where Joseph Leslie Theodore Taylor - better known as Squizzy - likely would have ended up had he not been shot by rival gangster Snowy Cutmore in Carlton in 1927.
Zwicky has 13 days to shoot two episodes of the eight-part drama series, which will air on Nine next year. But after five previous series, the crew on the Screentime-produced show have got the formula down pat. ''The Underbelly style is a heightened one,'' he says. ''It's based on fact but it's not a documentary. You bring the emotional peaks higher and lower than they might have happened in real life and you compress time and bring a certain vividness to it.''
In the case of Squizzy, much of what might look like ''heightening'' to the average viewer is surprisingly close to the truth. Taylor was the Carl Williams of his day, a limelight-loving rogue whose ruthlessness was cut with a dash of charm and a whopping dollop of chutzpah. ''He became a pop star,'' Zwicky says. ''Society matrons paid to have their photographs taken with him … He really got away with murder, in every sense.''
For an actor, Taylor is a dream role. ''He's charming, he's charismatic, and that's fun to play,'' says 23-year-old Jared Daperis.
Taylor was ''intoxicated by his own ego'', he says. His weapon of choice was ''his mouth, I think. He has mates who do the heavy lifting''.
Daperis got his first big break in the pay TV dramedy Small Time Gangster; now he's playing a big-time gangster. So what's next? ''Al Capone,'' he jokes.
Playing Squizzy's main squeeze, Ida Pender, is 20-year-old Gracie Gilbert.
''Ida is so progressive for her time, I feel like I'm playing one of the women who really changed things for females,'' Perth-raised Gilbert says.
Playing a proto-feminist doesn't mean being spared the usual Underbelly requirement of baring it all, though. ''There's a bit of nudity, sure, but it's very in keeping with the story,'' she says. ''They're young and in love, there's nothing gratuitous.''
''It's exciting to be playing a girl who's about the same age as me but living a wildly different life,'' she adds. ''Hugely different, actually, just for the record, Mum and Dad, Nana.''