Aussie directors continue to make Hollywood inroads

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Hollywood is the Holy Grail for many an Australasian film industry professionals. Working in Hollywood for many years have been Australasians such as Baz Luhrmann, who has The Great Gatsby due for U.S. release in May; Peter Jackson readying the next Hobbit film; Phillip Noyce (Salt); George Miller, who recently completed filming Max Max: Fury Road, and Alex Proyas (I Robot). Several of these directors try to film as much as they can Down Under. The America-set Great Gatsby was filmed in Sydney. New Zealand became Middle Earth for The Hobbit and George Miller had planned to film Mad Max: Fury Road in the desert outside Broken Hill, but unseasonal rains put paid to that. Instead, it went to Namibia.

A number of new faces are joining that select group in Hollywood. After making the low-budget Aussie genre film Stygian, the team of James Wan (director) and Leigh Whannell (writer) went from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology to Los Angeles to film Saw in 2004. They are currently shooting the sequel to their low-budget horror film Insidious, with Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson returning for Insidious Chapter 2. This time out, the family has more problems with their special son. A U.S. release is expected in September.

Like many Aussie directors, actor Jack Thompson is equally at home in Hollywood (Star Wars Episode II and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil) and Australia (The Great Gatsby, Mao's Last Dancer). His latest Australian film, Blinder, directed by Richard Gray, has just had a wide Australian release. He plays a coach who has been re-hired after ten years of retirement to reinvigorate a football club which is coming out of a sex scandal. Despite some good reviews, Blinder, released by a new Australian distribution company, failed to ignite the local box office. After completing Blinder, Gray went to the Bahamas to shoot the American comedy-thriller The Lookalike with Justin Long, Jerry O'Connell, Gina Gershon and Luis Guzmán. The storyline has two criminals on the lookout for a drug lord’s lover.

Peter Cornwell attracted international interest with his short film Ward 13, made in 2003. That led to a directing job on The Haunting in Connecticut, a supernatural thriller with Virginia Madsen. He is now helming the feature film of the Stephen King novel Mercy. It stars Dylan McDermott, Chandler Riggs, Shirley Knight, Frances O'Connor and Joel Courtney in the story of a single mother and her two sons who take care of their grandmother, a woman with supernatural powers. It is due for release in 2014.

Fox is looking to back Justin Dix's new thriller Declassified, with filming planned for later this year, possibly in Sydney. Dix made Crawlspace, a film that attracted interest in the world of low-budget horror. The movie had its premiere at the genre-specialist Sitges Film Festival in Spain, has been shown at a number of other festivals, and has been released in the U.K. It was purchased by IFC Midnight for a U.S. release. In Dix’s thriller, something has gone wrong at a secret installation in the bowels of the Earth at Pine Gap (an actual military base in Australia), and horror looms.

E-mail your Australia/New Zealand news items to David Pearce at insidemovies@hotmail.com.