On location with Better Man

Rhonda Dredge

Musical fantasy came to Hotham St in East Melbourne last month when the quiet street was transformed into the hang-out of UK boy band singer, Robbie Williams.

Hotham St is a tree-lined English kind of location where not much happens in a normal time frame.

“It was totally dead during the lockdown,” said Phillip Groves, the owner of the nearby East Melbourne Cellar.

But now the street is having a remake in a biopic called Better Man, named after the hit song by Williams, and filmed by visual effects artist Michael Gracey.

The movie set focused on a two-storey Victorian home belonging to Anne Leahy in real life, but who knows how it will appear in the film once the CGI guys get cracking.

Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis was filmed in Queensland rather than Memphis. Why can’t East Melbourne be turned into Stoke-on-Trent?

Most of the filming was done inside the house and focuses on the young Robbie’s road to stardom and its roller coaster effects.

Actor Jonno Davies is playing the young Robbie and he was seen walking in front of the church.

“He would have been in his late teens or early ‘20s,” said Phillip, who watched the action from his window.

“The amount of equipment was quite amazing.” There were about 20 trucks, five portable toilets and a cherry picker for lighting. They occupied a full block between Powlett and Simpson streets.

Not all locals are fans, however, of the manufactured sound of ‘90s pop culture nor the hype surrounding the film industry.

“The real story is that the film industry is using Australia to create jobs and help the local economy,” said Lisette Malatesta of the East Melbourne General Store.

“We didn’t experience it here.”

The film crew had their own catering and didn’t visit the store plus the street was closed off, forcing delivery vans around the block.

This isn’t the first time locals have dealt with a Robbie Williams fantasy. In 2007 he simulated a 1994 Manchester concert at Rod Laver Arena and fans paid $100 for the privilege of being an extra. •


Caption 1: Residents going about their daily lives, knowing that Robbie William's Better Man is being filmed in their quiet local street. Illustration by Patt Basilio

Caption 2: Most of the filming took place in this house.

Caption 3: Hotham St in reality.

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