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Eric Bana to play 'Dirty John' in TV adaptation of hit podcast

Sydney Morning Herald logo Sydney Morning Herald 4/04/2018 Michael Idato

Dubbed a ''master manipulator'', John Meehan is the subject of Christopher Goffard's podcast, Dirty John. © Supplied Dubbed a ''master manipulator'', John Meehan is the subject of Christopher Goffard's podcast, Dirty John. Australian actor Eric Bana will play 'Dirty John' Meehan in a television adaptation of the podcast Dirty John.

The formation and subsequent disintegration of Meehan's relationship with 59-year-old California woman Debra Newell was the subject of the hit podcast, which was released last October and downloaded 10 million times in just six weeks.

The podcast's author, Los Angeles Times reporter Christoper Goffard, described the story as "a cautionary tale about the ways that a sociopath, like a predator, can find the victim and tell these victims exactly what they want to hear."

Goffard visited Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth on a speaking tour earlier this year.

Bana will play Meehan opposite actress Connie Britton, who will play Newell, according to reports.

The role is the 49-year-old Melbourne-born actor's first on an American television series.

The US cable channel Bravo has commissioned two seasons of Dirty John, but has described the series as an anthology; the Meehan-Newell story will be explored in the first season only.

Australian actor Eric Bana. © Brian Bowen Smith Australian actor Eric Bana.

The show's second season would feature a different, also closed-ended story, and feature a different cast, the channel says.

The scripted drama will air in tandem with a documentary series examining the real-life case.

Speaking to Fairfax Media prior to his Australian tour, Goffard described the podcast as "a cautionary tale about the ways that a sociopath, like a predator, can find the victim and tell these victims exactly what they want to hear."

Newell and Meehan met on an over-50s dating website in 2014 and Newell was immediately charmed by Meehan's telegenic good looks: 55 years old, 187cm tall, fit and, he said, a doctor who had worked with the humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières.

But Meehan's life was a carefully assembled fiction and, despite the cracks in his story appearing over time, Newell stayed with him, ultimately placing herself and her family at risk.

Goffard said the most difficult aspect of the story was explaining "why [she] went back to the guy in spite of a stack of documents detailing his history of terrorising women, restraining orders [and] criminal cases."

The podcast was composed of a series of interviews with Newell, Goffard's own reporting and interviews with lawyers, investigators and members of Newell's family; the podcast was produced with Newell's co-operation.

"I thought Deborah was very brave in agreeing to tell me her stories, some of which is incredibly personal," Goffard said. "I think her impulse was she wanted to help people who might look at her story and get some insight into their own situation."

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