Interview - Richard Bradley

Interview: Richard Bradley, Richard Bradley Productions: 16th June 2007
(Radio 2UE - Sydney and Canberra)

Paul Makin: A few weeks ago we talked about the Milperra Bikie Massacre, that was on Father’s Day 1984, and I had heard that there was a movie of that massacre in the pipeline titled “Brothers at War”. And I was wondering if that movie was going to make it on the big screen. Well the man that was behind that project was a film maker by the name of Richard Bradley. Richard is one of Australia’s most respected film producers; he has completed over 100 productions covering a 25 year career in film and television. He joins me right now, good evening Richard. 

Richard Bradley: Good evening Paul how are you?

Paul Makin: I’m good thanks, well this movie “Brothers at War” on the Milperra Bikie Massacre, is it ever going to be made?

Richard Bradley: Well, it looks like it will be made, it’s been in hiatus for a number of years, I put it in hiatus because I was too busy with a lot of other big projects over the last 4-5 years. But an opportunity came along towards the end of last year, earlier this year. A new production team had been put together, and a new distributor has been put onto it. And we are now looking at it is a film ‘inspired by an actual event’ and we’ll see how things will progress along. And it could be a real possibility of being financed and made.

Paul Makin: It hasn’t been a case of the subject matter, such as bikies killing each other too hot to handle?

Richard Bradley: No, I found over the time, I’ve had very little trouble with that particular element. In fact I know a lot of the guys from both clubs, and we haven’t had that problem. Not as much as I was told I would have.

Paul Makin: So you got to know some of the bikies?

Richard Bradley: Yes I have, yes.

Paul Makin: What are they like?

Richard Bradley: Like bikies! (laughter) I met both Presidents, several years ago – both presidents of the Bandidos and Comancheros. I had lunch with them and there were a lot of emotional issues with these things. But this project has been in hiatus as I’ve said, for many other reasons, and my other workload, but the opportunity has come around again.  

Paul Makin: Yes sure. Richard, you’ve also got another movie you’re working on at the moment and this is an amazing story.

Richard Bradley: Absolutely.
Paul Makin: Tell the listeners a little bit about what you are going to do for this film and it is a real life event.

Richard Bradley: Yes right. This happened in 1908, and I went through a lot of the archives to find this story and found a vast array of characters. What actually happened, in 1907 the World Heavyweight Boxing Title Champion was a Canadian called Tommy Burns. And he was chased by a challenger, who was a black American who came from Texas by the name of Jack Johnson. A very colorful fellow and because of his controversy and also his color, it was very difficult to stage the event. He kept on saying he could beat Tommy Burns and he (Johnson) was really the proper world champion.   

Paul Makin: So there was no way of staging this in Canada or America?

Richard Bradley: No, or Europe, it was very difficult. And what actually happened was that Tommy Burns took an invitation by a local promoter in Sydney called Hugh McIntosh.

Paul Makin: Hmmm

Richard Bradley: To come here and have a number of fights against Australians, Billy Squires and Billy Lang. Unbeknown to Hugh McIntosh, Jack Johnson had found out where Tommy Burns was. So Jack Johnson had gambled that he could come to Australia, as it was so far out of the way that he would be possibly allowed to fight Burns here. And low and behold when he lobbed up, he made an offer to Hugh McIntosh, and he in turn made the offer to Tommy Burns. And Tommy Burns attitude was, “Yes, I’ll fight this guy for six thousand pounds, win lose or draw.”

Paul Makin: Right, so it was on.

Richard Bradley: It was on, and nobody thought this could possibly happen, but the word started to spread around and arriving in Australia was Jack London, the great American novelist. He and his wife Charmian both had malaria as they were traveling the South Seas and eventually arrived and they were going to represent the Hearst Media Corporation covering the fight. And the fight could actually be staged! In fact Henry Lawson was there. Norman Lindsay, the great artist was there, he did the publicity pictorial for “The Lone Hand” which was run by Jules Archibald – hence the Archibald Art Prize. So this fight was put on and it got a crowd of 16,000 inside a makeshift stadium in Rushcutters Bay which was later to become the Sydney Stadium. 

Paul Makin: 16,000 people!

Richard Bradley: Yes and 25,000 were locked out who couldn’t get in on Boxing Day 1908.

Paul Makin: That’s appropriate, Boxing Day!

Richard Bradley: Yes, and it was filmed. Hugh McIntosh had worked out how to film this fight. And the fight was filmed and Jack Johnson absolutely flogged Tommy Burns.

Paul Makin: So the black guy won!

Richard Bradley: He won, he won easily. The fight had to be stopped by the local police. They thought that Jack was not going to stop, and no-one was going to stop it.

Paul Makin: The champ was going to get really hurt.

Richard Bradley: Oh yes and Jack Johnson won easily and what that did, it showed to the world that Australia wasn’t a backwater. It could tolerate color and knew how to put on major sport. And Hugh McIntosh sold the film rights of the fight to Europe for eighty thousand pounds… (Makin whistles)…and it showed what big business sport would be. And this fight changed not only sporting history but social history as well, because the world at that time wasn’t prepared for a black man to be a champion of what was then considered to be a white dominated sport.

Paul Makin: So that bloke really led the way for all other black boxers including Muhammad Ali and all of the great ones?  

Richard Bradley: Right. All of them got inspiration from Jack….And I found that to be a very fascinating story and I spent 5-6 years writing the script coming up with the drafts. That has now been done. And through a financial planner in Melbourne a number of people are requesting applications to invest in the film. (This film managed to keep the 10BA Provisional Certificate that offers investors generous tax deductions – in this case around 90%. This is important because with redrafted legislation for the film industry 10BA Certificates are no longer provided and only those films with existing 10BA can qualify to offer this generous deduction.)  

Paul Makin: Okay if people want to get information on this where do they go? To a website?

Richard Bradley: Yes, .au (International Movie Makers Market)

Paul Makin: That sounds like an amazing story – I’m talking with Richard Bradley, a film maker. You were saying there was 16,000 in there and 25,000 were turned away from this old makeshift stadium – there was only one woman in the audience. 

Richard Bradley: Yes, that’s right. It was Jack London’s wife Charmian.

Paul Makin: The correspondent’s wife was there?

Richard Bradley: Yes, he said that if she doesn’t come, he doesn’t come. It is an amazing story. A great Australian story with an international impact. I’ve never enjoyed writing a script in all my life. Even with the hard work that went into it. A wonderful document!

Paul Makin: What will the name of the movie be?

Richard Bradley: “Fight of the Century”

Paul Makin: “Fight of the Century”

Richard Bradley: That’s right! That’s what it was.

Paul Makin: Well Richard Bradley, we’ll keep an eye out for that and I thank you for you time this evening.

Richard Bradley: Thank you very much Paul.


International Movie Makers Market

Fight Of The Century

Brothers At War


Richard Bradley



Richard Bradley - 3rd June 2004