The Tender Hook, set in the Harbour City in the 1920s but filmed in Melbourne, contributed $7 million and more than 100 jobs to the Victorian economy.
Brighton Beach stands in for Bondi. A rare swivel bridge in Sale, rural Victoria, doubles for Glebe Island. And the back alleyways of Fitzroy prove incredibly flexible, replicating at various points in the story the working class suburbs of Woolloomooloo, Darlinghurst, Surry Hills and Chippendale.
"The reality is, I would have shot the film on the moon in order to get it made," director Jonathan Ogilvie said yesterday.
"But I was disappointed, as a Sydney film-maker, that I didn’t get to make a Sydney story in Sydney."
Ogilvie said his screenplay was inspired by real underworld events.
Hugo Weaving’s master manipulator is based on colourful Sydney identity "Huge Deal" McIntosh.
Rose Byrne’s character – gangster moll Iris – is an amalgam of Kate Leigh and Tilly Devine.
Pia Miranda’s floozie flapper bears striking similarities to Nellie "Black Widow" Cameron.
And Matthew Le Nevez’s Art is based on a real boxer, who was shot on the corner of Albion and Riley Streets in Surry Hills.
Ogilvie and the film’s producers, Michelle Harrison and John Brousek, decided to move their entire production to Melbourne after learning their funding application had been rejected by the NSW Film and Television Office but Film Victoria was prepared to back it.
The irony was not lost on Melbourne-born Pia Miranda, who relocated to Sydney after scoring the lead role in the successful teenage drama Looking For Alibrandi, because she figured that’s where the acting jobs were.
Miranda said she was happy to work in her hometown because it allowed her to spend time with her extended family, who still live there.
But, like a number of her friends, she has thought about moving back permanently. "Everyone used to think of Sydney as the film capital of Australia," she said.
"But at the moment it’s a little bit hard, because a lot of productions, especially television, are casting only Melbourne actors."