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Eric Bana as Mark "Chopper" Read

Mark “Chopper” Read: What you didn’t know about the Gangland icon

You’ve probably heard of Mark “Chopper” Read, but did you know that many of his stories are fiction?

The gangland criminal has become ingrained in Australian culture, known as an underworld mastermind.

Andrew Roper, Chopper’s first manager spoke to Crime Insiders: In Focus about the man behind the myth.

“Mark was one of those guys. He just had that magic formula where he was incredibly endearing and charming and funny but also had that mystique. And he and people were frightened of him.”

He said between the ages of 20 and 38, Read spent just 13 months outside of prison. He infamously had another inmate cut his ears off in a bid to be moved to a different division.

While in Melbourne’s Pentridge Prison he wrote a book called Chopper from the Inside. It was an instant bestseller, but the stories weren’t always real.

“There would be hundreds of people turning up to his, uh, book appearances, and it would be mums and dads and grannies bringing their grandchildren in to kind of get to meet Mark read. And I’d be sitting there thinking, do you know why this guy is famous?”

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He portrayed ‘Chopper’ as a kind of hero, a standover man who served up vigilante justice on drug dealers and child molesters.

In 2000, the book became a movie starring Eric Bana, and the character was solidified in Australian lore.

“For the rest of his life, Mark Read earned a living by playing the character people saw on the screen. […] I discovered the reality was very different. It was easier being Chopper and profitable, but in the end, he was trapped in it,” podcast host Adam Shand said.

Adam Shand unpacks the life of Mark Read across two episodes of Crime Insiders: In Focus. Hear it on the free LiSTNR app, or wherever you get your podcasts.