Lawrence Leung (left) tries his hand out for John Luc. Photo: Simon Schluter
From the moment Lawrence Leung first performed his one-man cards-and-comedy show Sucker - to an audience of 20 in a library at Melbourne University in 2001 - he's had people telling him they wanted to make it into a feature. Or a documentary. Or a TV series.
All of which could have turned a young man's head, but Leung, who is best known for his ABC TV series Choose Your Own Adventure, was not easily seduced.
''I was a bit nervous about it,'' he says. ''It was my first solo show and I didn't want to give away something that had been part of my life.''
He hadn't just created his show about the subtle art of the con, he had lived it. And now, with the film in production, he's living it again.
Leung won't say exactly how much of Sucker - which is being directed by his old uni pal Ben Chessell, with Timothy Spall as the Artful Dodger of the piece - is actually true, but it's somewhere between a bit and a lot.
''Some things are real, some things are false, some things are elaborated for dramatic effect,'' says Leung. ''I had a mentor, I know how to cheat at cards, I have done three-card monty on street corners to demonstrate how it is done.
''But I always gave the money back,'' he hastens to add. ''I don't want to incriminate myself.''
At 36, Leung is too old now to play himself as a teenager. That task has fallen to 23-year-old John Luc, a YouTube sensation from the south-eastern suburbs of Melbourne. ''Playing a 17-year-old is very easy because I act like a 17-year-old,'' says Luc, whose YouTube channel, mychonny, has had more than 150 million views. His most popular video, Justin Bieber is a gay baby, has had more than 18 million views (that's an aberration, but plenty of his comic sketches - many of them about the crazy antics of his Vietnamese-Chinese parents - have racked up 3million-plus views).
Though it's his first film, Luc isn't intimidated by the prospect of playing a real person who just happens to be on set watching his every move. ''He doesn't put any pressure on me, like 'That's not how I am,''' Luc says. ''I didn't follow him around for two weeks going, 'Oh, so he uses chopsticks like this'. I play it like a bit of me, a bit of him, mash it in.''
At any rate, Luc has had plenty of time to prepare. Producer Robyn Kershaw dangled the part in front of him four years ago after her kids showed her his videos. He says, ''I kind of forgot about it but then all of a sudden it came back, and I was like, 'Awesome'.''
For his money, Leung is pretty happy with the casting choice. ''Ben [Chessell] remembers what I was like back then and he says we share the same mannerisms,'' Leung says. ''But what John brings to it is he has this innocence but also this really cheeky look in his eyes.
''I can't think of anyone better to play me,'' he adds. ''Other than George Clooney.''