November 22, 2013
RUSSELL Crowe will start shooting his directorial debut, The Water Diviner, in Sydney early next month.
The 49-year-old Oscar-winner is doing some preliminary filming on his hotly anticipated Gallipoli drama at Fox Studios prior to Christmas.
In the New Year, production will move to South Australia and Turkey.
Crowe will also star in the film, about a man who travels to Gallipoli in the wake of the bloody World War I battle to locate his missing sons, alongside Bond girl Olga Kurylenko and rising star Jai Courtney, who is coming straight from the set of Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken, which is shooting in Queensland and NSW.
Turkish actors Yilmaz Erdogan and Cem Yilmaz have also been cast in The Water Diviner alongside Australians Ryan Corr, Dan Wylie, Damon Herriman and Jacqueline McKenzie, with whom Crowe starred in Romper Stomper.
Budgeted in an earlier incarnation at $12 million, The Water Diviner is the first in a string of high-profile productions shooting in Australia over the coming months.
Stranger Land, starring Nicole Kidman, Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce, also starts production in the first quarter of 2014.
Set in Broken Hill and the surrounding areas, the feature film debut of TV director Kim Farrant (Rush) is a mystery drama about a couple whose relationship is pushed to the brink when their teenage children go missing in the Outback.
Judy Davis/Kate Winslet tragi-comedy The Dressmaker, set in a fictional wheatbelt town in the 1950s, was also slated to start filming in rural Victoria in the first few months of next year, but production has now been delayed until August to accommodate the birth of Winslet’s third child.
Jocelyn Moorhouse’s gothic tale of love, hate and haute couture, based on the Rosalie Ham novel of the same name, is the director’s first feature since her ill-fated adaptation of Murray Bail’s novel Eucalyptus, which was to have starred Crowe and Kidman.
Also filming in Australia in 2014 is Alex Proyas’ $150 million action epic Gods of Egypt, with Gerard Butler, Geoffrey Rush and Game of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, although locations are yet to be confirmed.
The four films join a growing number of Australian productions bankrolled by the sort of money that is likely to attract international stars.
Releasing in cinemas on Boxing Day is the $26 million World War II drama The Railway Man, a UK/Australian co-production starring Kidman and Colin Firth.
Tracks, based on Robyn Davidson’s solo camel trek across the Simpson Desert and starring Mia Wasikowska, opens in Australia in March.
Also releasing next year is The Rover, David Michod’s follow-up to Animal Kingdom, starring Pearce and Robert Pattinson.
Richard Payten, of Transmission Films, the distribution company behind The Railway Man, Tracks and Strangerland, sees the shift as part of a global trend away from smaller, kitchen-sink dramas towards larger-scale “cinematic” productions.
“I think our industry has matured over the last few years and we are definitely aiming for some of those bigger films with bigger scope that will attract the bigger stars.”
Since Hollywood will always be in a position to outbid local filmmakers, however, the quality of the screenplay is still paramount.
“For any of those top-tier actors or directors, it comes down to the material,” says Payten.
“Clearly it then needs to be at a budget level that is going to reward them for their work, but they could all probably go and earn more money elsewhere.”