Wednesday, October 21, 2009

coming to the screen..

The extraordinary life of the late stockbroker Rene Rivkin is to be examined in the film Model Daughter: The Caroline Byrne Story, nearing completion and due for broadcasting this year.

The telemovie concentrates on the arrest and trial of Rivkin's chauffeur and confidante, Gordon Wood who was convicted of throwing his model girlfriend Caroline Byrne over The Gap, the infamous suicide spot near the heads of Sydney Harbour in 1995.

It took investigating police over 10 years to finally charge Wood who was jailed for 17 years last December. He was arrested in Switzerland after fleeing from London where he had built up a chain of successful exercise gyms. Wood has lodged an appeal and proclaims his innocence.

Rivkin's life was highly controversial at the best of times. Born in Shanghai China, his Georgian family migrated to Sydney where Rivkin built up a $50M fortune as a financial advisor to film stars like Tom Cruise and Russell Crowe and was the youngest ever member of the stock exchange.

His life began to fall apart in 2003 when he was convicted for insider trading after making a paltry $2300 profit on some Qantas shares. Friends scoffed at the time that Rivkin could easily spend that much over lunch. Many spoke of how the "establishment" was out to get Rivkin over his presumed flashy lifestyle. A gold Bentley convertible with matching worry beads, huge cigars and tendency to love appearing in gossip columns. In 2000 Rivkin hosted the media aboard his huge new cruiser with it's helicopter pad that was to be loaned to visiting stars for harbour cruises. In 1999, he played himself in the last of the US hit TV series Baywatch when 4 episodes were filmed on the northern beaches.

Gordon Wood & Carolyn Byrne

Rivkin received a 9 month periodic weekend detention sentence. His first appearance at Silverwater Correctional Centre was accompanied by a fleet of media crews as Rikvin arrived in a limousine. Despite saying after the first 2 days that he was enjoying teaching fellow inmates stock investing skills, Rivkin collapsed as he was about to leave on Monday morning. Outrage followed when it was revealed a Murdoch newspaper had supplied a mobile phone to a fellow inmate to snap Rivkin in jail with the photo splashed across front pages.

Doctors diagnosed a brain tumour and Rivkin's lawyers negotiated a deal with authorities where Rivkin would spend his entire sentence in one stretch at the Long Bay Jail psychiatric ward after an operation to remove the growth.

But Rivkin's life was about to unravel further as he heard he was being investigated over secret Swiss bank accounts. Living in his mother's Point Piper apartment, the day Rivkin's wife Gayle announced she was to divorce him, Rene killed himself with an overdose of pills in 2007. He was bankrupt-his fortune had seemingly vanished.

Finance journalist Andrew Main's bestseller Rivkin, Unauthorised: The Rise and Spectacular Fall of an Unorthodox, revealed that Rivkin had skirted on the edge of legality from the very early days of the heady 1980's when insider trading was the norm. It was inevitable that a crash was to come. Some speculated that Rene had a built-in self destructive streak, haunted by the suicide of his loved older brother.

In 1987 as Rivkin flew out from Sydney to New York to seal a deal with artist Andy Warhol to launch Rivkin's new art investment company, a message was delivered to him in first class that Warhol had died suddenly. Rivkin collapsed and had to be medicated to return home.

The film is based on Sydney Morning Herald journalist Robert Wainwright's book The Killing Of Caroline Byrne: A Journey To Justice and stars David Lyons as Wood, Tiriel Mora as Rivkin and Cariba Heine as Caroline Byrne.