A taxpayer-funded television biopic about rape survivor Louise Nicholas is under way, and the woman herself says she was stunned producers wanted to bring her tragic life story to the small screen.

"It blew me up that they wanted to do it. I said 'why?'," Nicholas told The Diary. "But they said it's an important story to tell."

Project L, a Condor Encore movie for TV One's Sunday Theatre, is based on Nicholas' book, My Story, which she co-wrote with journalist Phil Kitchin. He broke Louise's story in 2004 which led to a full police investigation and a commission of inquiry into police conduct.

Producer Steven O'Meagher says filming is taking place in Wellington but wraps this week after seven weeks of shooting.


No onscreen date has been set, but TVNZ says the project is significant for all New Zealanders. "It's an important story to tell and it has a big investment from NZ on Air's Platinum Fund," said TVNZ publicist Meredith McGrath. More than $2.6 million in funding has been committed.

Project L covers all those involved, including Kitchin, the senior policeman who helped fight Louise's case, and the anguish of her family.

"The hardest bit about the movie is not the bad stuff, but how they [the producers] will translate the emotion around my family," Nicholas says. "Even though I lived it and saw how it affected my family at the time, it will be weird to watch that part onscreen."

Nicholas has consulted on the biopic and read the script before it went into production. She is full of praise for actress Michelle Blundell, who plays the lead role. "Her and I have met several times. She is one hell of a powerful woman. She will do the Louise Nicholas story justice. Actually it's bringing tears to my eyes now just talking about it," she said.

Michelle Blundell plays the lead role in the TV movie Project L.

"I've been out to the set for a squizzy. It was really weird. One scene in particular, a heated argument between [my husband] Ross and myself, was weird to watch. It was like, OMG, that was it! It was just like that! I found it all quite emotional."

An inaugural Louise Nicholas Day was launched last month around sexual violence and Nicholas says she has had nothing but support from police corners on the film.

"The coppers I've spoken with who know about the movie coming out on TV are stoked about it. There is absolutely NO bad press from them. I have their full support. They know this is a story that needs to be told.

"But the importance of the story is not that it's about me. It's about keeping conversations about rape open.

"It's about bringing the subject into people's lounges, and young adults watching the movie and turning to their parents and asking what happened, and making sure it doesn't happen again."

Boomerang Benji finds himself at crossroads

Benji Marshall and his wife Zoe are cutting and running from New Zealand and boomeranging back to Australia to save their careers. Marshall's failed foray into rugby will affect the brand he's so carefully cultivated with the aid of managers and marketers. Benji Inc is at a crossroads. Just how much damage has been done will depend on how quickly the offers come in. At the time of print, few hands were raised.

The Blues' highest paid player - earning close to $500,000 a year before endorsements - has said he wants to return to Sydney and rugby league. Previously he'd said he would only play for old flames West Tigers in the NRL, but they're not returning the love.

With every flip-flop action and verbal compromise the Benji brand suffers.

Marshall's commercial endorsement contracts are understood to be enormously profitable. How much he rakes in is unclear, but the code-crossing footy star is an ambassador for a number of high-profile brands, including footwear giant Asics, sporting goods company Spartan, Mambo clothing and performance gear 2XU.

They are all listed on his personal website (benjimarshall.com.au), including Air New Zealand. However, Brigitte Ransom, Air New Zealand's corporate affairs manager, told The Diary Marshall did not have an endorsement relationship with the local carrier.

Those brands associated with Marshall will have much to think about after his leap back to league. Companies may think twice about high-profile commercial sponsorships. Does Marshall have longevity? Will he be an A-grade commodity again?

Marshall's glamorous wife Zoe will need to find work, too. She was the much-hyped co-host of TV3's The Great Food Race which has struggled in the ratings. MediaWorks pitched her last year as a future star of the company, which made her additional signing with rival TRN later all the more problematic.

Marshall the Prettier joined ZM's afternoon drive show in a bid for a media career across both television and radio, but her roles with TRN and MediaWorks only cannibalised her brand. Agent Sara Tetro told The Diary at the time it was a strategic move. She said yesterday it was too soon for Zoe to comment.

The strategic move for Benji at the moment is running out on his Blues contract and the fans.

His agent Martin Tauber, in an interview with a Sydney newspaper in 2011, predicted a move, eventually, into media.

"Long term, Benji's future is television and print media. He has the face for it, the confidence for it and he's building up strengths in the areas television requires. I think it's something he will do very well in."

If the league clubs continue to screen his calls, that prediction may come sooner than he thinks.

Tory had to be told

It would have been a sleepless night for Sir Wira Gardiner who was embarrassingly exposed yesterday as a cash donor in Shane Jones' aspiring Labour leadership campaign. Embarrassing because he hadn't told his Tory wife - National Party Cabinet minister Hekia Parata. The Herald's Claire Trevett broke the news to the PM, who then broke it to Parata. "Poor Wira got an earful, I think," Trevett told The Diary. No doubt he was relegated to the couch, or a pup tent out the back of the house.

He has told her, presumably, that he is penning a biography on Labour MP Parekura Horomia, who passed away a year ago.

Wira has spent the past two months on the road researching and writing the memoir about his close friend.