Mandy McElhinney will play Gina Rinehart in an upcoming telemovie. Photo: Jacky Ghossein
The silence from Gina Rinehart's office in Perth this week was deafening when PS approached her for a comment on the new Channel Nine telemovie based on her life, however the actor charged with pulling off the role is hopeful the woman who was once the world's richest - not to mention one of its most ferocious litigants - will see her portrayal as an "honest" one.
Mandy McElhinney told PS that while she was "excited", there were also plenty of nerves.
"I'm very excited, but as with anything when you are just starting it is very intimidating, especially when you are playing someone who is alive," she told PS this week following an intensive session with wardrobe and hair and makeup teams, who are working frantically to get Rinehart's look just right before the cameras start rolling in a fortnight.
Gina Rinehart. Photo: Bohdan Warchomij
"I was familiar with Gina's story, I'm from WA and it was all anybody talked about. That was a really fascinating time in my life, with so many things happening in WA with all those big businessmen and Rose Hancock ... I can remember as a kid thinking it was like something on Dallas ... it is still such an incredible story to this day.
"Gina has lived a life and a lot of what has happened to her has manifested itself physically, and that's what I'll be exploring as the character progresses ... the story of how she became the richest woman in the world."
McElhinney spent much of her childhood in Geraldton and her father worked in the mines for several years, which she says gave her a rare insight into the zeal Rinehart has shown for mining and her unflinching belief in the Rinehart family legacy, a legacy which has weighed heavily on her shoulders.
Rose Porteous (formerly Hancock) at her former home Prix d'amour in Perth. Photo: Tony McDonough
"I understand the mining culture in WA very well and I also understand that connection she has with the landscape ... it really is a beautiful part of the world."
But the beauty of the Pilbara is only one part of the story - PS can reveal the other great character playing opposite McElhinney's portrayal of Gina Rinehart will be Malaysian-born Australian actress Peta Sergeant, who has won the role of Rose Hancock, a character who promises to be just as feisty.
"We had a great reading on Wednesday and the differences between the characters is really fascinating, they are all very dynamic and they are all having a go at each other. These are very strong willed and powerful characters," McElhinney enthused.
Former Bardot member Belinda Chapple promoting her new show Sydney After Dark at the Planet Hollywood Casino in Las Vegas. Photo: INFphoto.com
Set primarily in the period 1980-2002, Gina vs Rose: The House Of Hancock, tells the epic story of the Hancock dynasty and the love triangle that emerged between the father Lang, his daughter Gina and his beautiful Filipina housekeeper Rose.
While Lang and Gina are inseparable, the perfect team, their relationship is rocked by a series of tumultuous events, from Lang's disapproval of Gina marrying a man old enough to be her father to the death of his wife and Gina's mother Hope.
According to the synopsis PS has seen: "In an attempt to help her ailing father, Gina employs a new housekeeper to get him back on track, Rose Lacson from the Philippines, not realising this will be a decision that will tear their family apart."
Former David Jones CEO Paul Zahra. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer
The telemovie is being produced for the Nine Network by Michael Cordell, Claudia Karvan and Paul Bennett from Cordell Jigsaw Zapruder. Production will commence at the end of this month in Sydney and WA.
Chapple tries luck in Vegas
James Packer is not the only Australian with big plans for Las Vegas.
Eddie incognito? Eddie Obeid at Leicchardt cafe. Photo: Supplied
While the casino mogul is set to plough billions of dollars into the construction of a new mega-casino and resort on the site of the old New Frontier casino where Elvis Presley did his first Vegas show in 1956, Packer's latest ambitions are not creating quite the same level of excitement as some of his slightly more curvaceous compatriots.
Further down "the Strip" at Planet Hollywood, previews have been running for a new strip show called Sydney After Dark. It's the brainchild of former singer Belinda Chapple, best known as one of the members of all-girl made-for-TV pop band Bardot, the same band which gave us Sophie Monk.
Chapple told PS this week that her 10 Australian performers were causing quite a commotion in Sin City, with a strip review featuring music from AC/DC to INXS which celebrated the sexy side of Sydney to an audience of mostly sleep-deprived, slack-jawed, bug-eyed American men – a la The Hangover.
Hamilton Island Race Week yachts. Photo: Supplied
"Americans think the Australian accent is sexy, so there is quite a bit of intrigue about being an Australian here, and we are certainly capitalising on that with the show. This has been four years in the making and the girls are getting quite a bit of recognition here," Chapple said, adding that the Sydney After Dark girls now had their own giant billboard overlooking the Vegas freeways.
However, she shrugged off recent articles in the local press claiming the show had not been quite the hit Planet Hollywood had hoped for, with the casino announcing the show would close amid suggestions the girls were not getting their gear off quick enough, with too many elaborate costumes and not enough, well, you know.
"The press will write what they want. We were only ever at Planet Hollywood for the previews and we have a new venue which will be announced soon ... the show is going very well," Chapple assured PS.
Mandy McElhinney has been cast to play Gina Rinehart. Photo: Jacky Ghossein
Just down the road from Planet Hollywood, the boys from Thunder From Down Under have been oiling up their hairless pectorals for years inside the mediaeval-themed Excalibur casino. Last year PS caught the show and observed the hordes of American women whoopin', hollerin' and screechin' their delight.
With the arrival of Packer's casino, there has been some suggestion that perhaps the time was right for an Australian-themed venue to open on the Las Vegas strip, which already has Ancient Egypt represented at the Luxor (complete with air-conditioned pyrmaid), the computer-controlled canals of Venice at the Venetian, a three quarter scale model of the Eiffel Tower at Paris, a downsized version of the Manhattan skyline at New York, New York and of course the magnificent fountains at Bellagio.
It seems only a matter of time before someone builds a Vegas version of Uluru and fills it with one-armed-bandits and Sydney strippers. It might as well be you, Mr Packer.
Zahra's exit first of many changes for David Jones
While the tears were flowing inside the David Jones ballroom on Tuesday morning as Paul Zahra addressed 500 of his staff informing them he was leaving the chief executive's post following South African retailer Woolworths taking control of the venerable department store, PS hears the writing had been on the wall for weeks.
While Zahra is being retained as a "consultant" for the next three months, PS hears relations between the executive and the new regime were perfunctory at best and Zahra is likely to leave the country by the end of the year, though has vowed to return next year.
Two weeks ago the South Africans hosed down claims revealed by PS from senior David Jones executives that plans were afoot for drastic changes at the department store, including the sale of key locations in Sydney and Melbourne – including the menswear store on Market Street – which would likely result in the demise of the food hall, as well as turning the recently refurbished ballroom into a trading floor.
Despite Woolworths' denials, senior sources inside the store remained adamant this week that such measures were seriously being considered as the new owners attempt to reduce the huge debt incurred from the $2.2 billion buyout.
Indeed, there are no incumbent David Jones executives on the taskforce PS previously revealed had been set up to investigate such measures and come up with a plan in 100 days.
Newly installed David Jones chief executive Iain Nairn was somewhat elusive when asked about the future of such traditions as the annual spring flower show or the future of the grand piano which has tinkled away in the cosmetics hall for generations.
It was PS – or at least in its previous incarnation as the Spike column – which lobbied hard to retain the Steinway and its players when former chief Mark McInnes announced plans for a revamp of the cosmetics hall nearly a decade ago, including replacing the elegant piano with disc jockeys. The news caused a huge outcry from the store's customers, with thousands of complaints resulting in management backing down.
Several long-serving executives at the retailer are hopeful the same will happen again.
Incognito Eddie caps it all
You just have to ask the likes of Nicole Kidman or Russell Crowe how difficult it is to get about this town incognito. But Eddie Obeid almost pulled it off on Monday ... almost. Wearing a baseball cap and dark sunglasses, Obeid and a mystery blonde woman were spotted inside the disgraced former NSW minister's favourite cafe, the Bakehouse, in Leichhardt, on Monday. Apparently he is a regular there, arriving on Monday in a shiny prestige Mercedes-Benz. Obeid is clearly a man who (still) likes to travel in style.
Fly on the pie won't spoil the party
The Bennelong restaurant site at the Sydney Opera House, which has sat empty since New Year's Eve after star chef Guillaume Brahimi opted for new digs at the old Darcy's in Paddington, will finally have some life breathed into it next Wednesday – albeit for one night only. Australian Gourmet Traveller is hosting its annual restaurant awards in a specially-built "pop-up" restaurant being designed by Melbourne architect Pascale Gomes-McNabb and featuring the culinary fare of six of Australia's best new chefs. While AGT is pulling out the big guns for its awards night, insiders at the magazine were left red-faced after an image of a bacon and potato tart published in the August issue featured a fly in the photo. While there was no official response when PS asked, apparently it was the first such incident in the magazine's 48 years. Meanwhile, on September 1, all eyes will be on the Ivy where the hotly anticipated Good Food Guide will be launched before 400 of Sydney's food royalty. PS hears this year there will be more hats than ever before awarded to Sydney restaurants, with invitations starting to filter out this week, providing the best indication of who has landed a hat – and, even more interestingly, who hasn't.
Making a splash at Hamilton
PS will be (deeply) embedded among the superyachts and champagne bars next week for this year's Audi Hamilton Island Race Week, where the likes of vitamin mogul Marcus Blackmore and his wife Caroline Furlong, pokie heir turned resort owner Christian Ainsworth, Hong Kong yachtie and department store baron Karl Kwok, pearling heir Chris Paspaley, Rolex chief Patrick Boutellier, models the Stenmark twins, Zac and Jordan, and singer-songwriter Sarah Blasko, along with chefs Matt Moran, Kylie Kwong and Guillaume Brahimi, will all be defrosting from the southern chill in the Whitsundays courtesy of the billionaire Oatley family, which earlier this year launched Australia's challenge for the next Americas Cup. PS will have the full rundown – from the top deck to the pool deck – next week.