Familiar names attached to new Australian film productions

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Several Australian films of strong interest to the international market are on the horizon. Two polar-opposite movies have just completed filming. Stephan Elliott (Priscilla, Queen of the Desert) has just wrapped A Few Best Men, a comedy about a wedding in an idyllic holiday spot that goes terribly wrong. It stars Xavier Samuel, Kris Marshall, Kevin Bishop and Olivia Newton John and has been described as an Aussie Hangover.

Much more aimed at an art-house crowd is Fred Schepisi's adaptation of Patrick White's novel Eye of the Storm. Expatriate son Geoffrey Rush plus daughter Judy Davis have come home to the deathbed of mother Charlotte Rampling. Also in attendance are various hangers-on. Expect plenty of drama.
Action thriller Killer Elite, starring Jason Statham, Clive Owen and Robert De Niro has recently been picked up by newly launched Open Road Films for a major fall release in the U.S. The A$66 million film, based on Sir Ranulph Fiennes' nonfiction novel The Feather Men, was filmed in Melbourne last year as well as in Paris, Wales, London, Dubai and Oman.

Aussie director PJ Hogan is returning home and reuniting with his Muriel’s Wedding star Toni Collette for Universal Pictures International's comedy Mental. A local politician commits his wife to a mental hospital, leaving him alone with five daughters. Out of desperation, he hires a hitchhiker as the family nanny. She proves to be a lot more charismatic and hot-tempered than he ever imagined. Although it is not likely to be filmed in Australia, local director Phillip Noyce is set to direct a remake of the Jean-Claude Van Damme action movie Bloodsport.

Keeping busy, Fred Schepisi is expected to next start work on an adaptation of Robert Drewe's historical novel The Drowner. A lovestruck young engineer travels from England to the Western Australian outback to oversee the building of a pipeline from the coast to the gold fields. An excellent cast including Cate Blanchett, Emily Blunt, Liam Neeson, Barry Humphries and James McAvoy are signed for the film, which is being made by Mel Gibson's Icon and Impian.

Other local films of interest include 33 Postcards, in which a Chinese orphan arrives in Australia to find her sponsor (Guy Pearce) behind bars, charged with manslaughter; Bruce Beresford’s film about Nancy Wake, an Australian spy in France known during the war as The White Mouse; and Hangover star Bradley Cooper in an adaptation of John Milton's 17th-century poem Paradise Lost, to be directed by Alex Proyas. The latter is perhaps the most unlikely source material for any upcoming film.

Finally, filming is now expected to start July 1 on the newest Mad Max movie.

E-mail news items to David Pearce at insidemovies@hotmail.com.