True History of the Kelly Gang is the nineteenth on-screen depiction of the Kelly Outbreak. The outbreak has previously been the subject of seven feature films (plus an unfinished film in 1947), two spoof movies, two teleplays, three short films, a miniseries and three docudramas.
Despite the title, "True History of the Kelly Gang" is actually a highly fictionalized depiction of the life and times of the Kelly Gang.
Russell Crowe's portrayal of Harry Power marks the first time that the outlaw has been depicted in a feature film. It is also the second on-screen depiction of Power overall, having been previously portrayed by Gerard Kennedy in the miniseries The Last Outlaw (1980).
The execution scene was filmed at the Old Melbourne Gaol, the same place that the real-life Ned Kelly was hanged. However the original gallows that Kelly was executed on (which is still there today) was not used. Instead the film depicts Kelly's death as taking place on a catwalk in the centre of the cellblock.
The height aspect ratio gradually shrinks throughout the film, symbolising the famous helmet Kelly eventually wears.
Heath Ledger and Mick Jagger have played previous incarnations of the Ned Kelly historical figure in Australian movie adaptations.
The fellatio scene between Ellen Kelly and Sergeant O'Neil was Charlie Hunnam's first day of filming.
At one point "True History of the Kelly Gang" was going to be adapted for the silver screen in 2003, with Neil Jordan attached to direct. However the project was abandoned due to fears of competition with Gregor Jordan's "Ned Kelly" (2003).
Travis Fimmel and Dacre Montgomery were originally going to appear in the film as Seargeant O'Neil and George King, but dropped out for undisclosed reasons.
For the scene between Ellen and Mary in the padded cell, the Old City Watch House is used. The Watch House was built in 1909 on the site where Melbourne Gaol's south wing use to stand. Erieely it was in this wing that the real Ned Kelly spent his last days.
Earl Cave's (Dan Kelly) grandfather Colin F. Cave organized the first symposium on Ned Kelly in 1962. He later edited a essay anthology based on the symposium called "Ned Kelly: Man and Myth". Likewise Earl Cave's father, the singer Nick Cave, had an obsession with Kelly as a child, mainly being drawn into the outlaw's place legacy. This obsession later influenced his music, forming the basis of the rebellious image that he's well-known for.
In September 2018, it was reported that Russell Crowe stormed off set when the catering ran out of rice.
Released in Australian cinemas on the same day as ''1917'' (2019), another film that stars George MacKay. Both films opened on January 9th, 2020.
The film expands the character of Sergeant O'Neil, who only appears in the original novel as a minor antagonist. In the novel, his contact with the Kellys is brief, with his main impact on their lives being his revelation of Red Kelly's cross-dressing.
The director Justin said to George Mackay, "I see the Kelly Gang as a punk band. So we've booked you a gig in a bar in Melbourne in three weeks as yourself. You have got to come up with a name, write an album and perform a set." The band formed by George Mackay, Earl Cave, Louis Hewison and Sean Keenan were called Fleshlight and two of the songs made it onto the film soundtrack (Desperate and I Am Everywhere).
The first big screen depiction of the Kelly story since 2003's "Ned Kelly", starring Heath Ledger. Like "True History of the Kelly Gang", the Ledger film was based on a fiction novel (Robert Drewe's "Our Sunshine" (1991)).
After Frank Mills (1906) and Mick Jagger (1970), George MacKay is the third non-Australian actor to portray Ned Kelly on screen.
For Curnow's lecture scene, the La Trobe Reading Room at the State Library of Victoria was used. Coincidentally the library has several connections to Ned Kelly. The library was found in 1853 by Sir Redmond Barry, an accomplished judge who is well-known today for proceeding over Kelly's murder trial. The library was constructed next door to the Old Melbourne Gaol, where Kelly was hanged. The library holds a vast collection of artefacts and documents related to the Kelly Outbreak, including Kelly's suit of armour and his Jerilderie letter. It also holds the archive of novelist Peter Carey, which includes early drafts of True History of the Kelly Gang and the G4 laptop that he wrote it on.
The scene between Ellen and Mary in the padded cell was filmed in the Old City Watchouse, which was built in 1909 within the grounds of the Old Melbourne Gaol. The Old Melbourne Gaol was where the real life Ellen served her sentence for the attempted murder of Constable Fitzpatrick. The cellblock that Ellen was originally held in (a female only wing on the west side of the gaol) was demolished in 1930 to make way for the Emily McPherson College (now known as RMIT University).
After Ned Kelly (1970), The Trial of Ned Kelly (1977), The Last Outlaw (1980) and Besieged: The Ned Kelly Story (2004), True History of the Kelly Gang is the fifth Kelly film to recreate the execution of Ned Kelly in the original gaol that the real-life Kelly was hanged. However where "True History" differs is how they show the execution being carried out. In the previous films the Melbourne Gaol's original gallows (a platform built into a nook-like corner in between the gaol's eastern and western wings) was used. "True History" departs from tradition and moves Kelly's execution to a catwalk in the middle of the concourse space that connects the eastern and western wings.
On one of the walls of the Glenrowan Inn, the William Faulkner quote "The past is not dead, it is not even past" is carved into it. This is a nod to the epigraph of Peter Carey's original novel.
The first film about Ned Kelly (excluding parody films Reckless Kelly (1993) and Ned (2003)) to feature the outlaw without his iconic beard.
Essie Davis (Ellen Kelly) and Sean Keenan (Joe Byrne) previously appeared together in the miniseries Cloudstreet (2011), playing a mother and son.
Earl Cave's (Dan Kelly) father Nick Cave grew up in Wangaratta, a rural suburb 10 km away from Glenrowan, where the Kelly Gang's showdown with police took place.
Earl Cave's (Dan Kelly) father Nick Cave previously wrote the screenplay for The Proposition (2005), another film that focuses on Australian bushranging.