There’s some wonderful news to report today about a long-dormant project Hugo Weaving has long been linked to: Kim Farrant’s outback mystery-thriller Strangerland. Inside Film and Variety are confirming Nicole Kidman has signed on, joining the two long-rumored male costars. The plot concerns an Australian couple whose teenage children disappear into the Outback, and the subsequent investigation and emotional fallout this events causes.
“Long haul” fans might remember that the first reports of the project surfaced circa 2006-7, with Hugo slated to star as a policeman investigating the disappearance and Anthony LaPaglia and Gia Carrides to star as the distraught couple. Later they dropped out and Guy Pearce’s name appeared on the film’s “in development” website Kim Farrant was always slated to direct, and the synopsis hasn’t changed since the early announcements. But the project went dormant after a year or so of rumors, and a lot of us fans wondered if it hadn’t joined the pile of promising Australian project Hugo has been connected to over the years that, for whatever reasoning (usually financing issues) never got made. Coincidentally, Weaving and Kidman were previously signed to costar in one of those films, Eucalyptus, which was infamously scuttled by costar Russell Crowe during the first few days of filming. (Director Jocelyn Moorhouse, who made Proof, was to direct.) The cancellation of Eucalyptus enabled Hugo to star in V for Vendetta, which he’d initially turned down (yes, he WAS the Wachowskis first choice, and James Purefoy replaced him before he replaced Purefoy)… so most fans think that worked out pretty well.
But I’d always hoped Strangerland would eventually get the green light, and Craig Monahan’s ordeals getting each of his three films with Hugo made (The Interview, Peaches, Healing) demonstrate the patience a lot of talented Australian filmmakers are forced to have in getting cherished projects off the ground. It’s probable that signing Kidman was key to securing financing, and it’ll be great to see her in a strong leading role again… Hollywood has been very spotty in providing decent work for her in recent years. There’s no specific role confirmation in either of the reports I linked to, but if Hugo is still playing the investigator, it’ll be another in a recent spate of cop roles. (He plays a drug squad cop in Mystery Road, an ex-cop in Healing and a prison official in Healing… and I suspect he’s playing a cop in The Mule, too, though his role specifics haven’t yet been announced.) Interesting how much variety these films and roles have, though, beyond the one similarity. There are no details yet on the film’s shooting or release schedule, or how Hugo might juggle this and the previously-announced One Foot Wrong along with his role in Macbeth next year. I am impressed with pretty much all of his recent role choices in both films and plays. He’s certainly busting out of the “nerd movie” ghetto, though I hope fans of the Big Trilogies have enjoyed the smaller films too.
Other details about Strangerland: The script is by Fiona Seres and Michael Kinirons, and the film will be distributed by Transmission in Australia and the France-based Wild Bunch internationally. The film is tentatively scheduled for a 2015 release. I’ll share any additional details as they become available. Kim Farrant previously directed the thoughtful body image documentary Naked On The Inside, which played on US cable TV in 2007.
UPDATE: The Hollywood Reporter adds a few more details from the film’s press release: “The story centers on Catherine and Matthew Parker, whose relationship is pushed to the brink when their two teenage children disappear into the remote Australian desert and they are forced to confront the mystery of their children’s fate….Kim Farrant’s Strangerland has … a strong creative vision and massive A-list festival potential,” Screen Australia CEO Ruth Harley said.” You can also read Screen Australia‘s full financing press release about Strangerland, Rob Connolly’s Force of Destiny (starring David Wenham) and newly green-lit films by Gillian Armstrong, Paul Cox and Jeremy Sims here. Also: The Brisbane Times/AAP posted a brief report on the news
Ivan Sen’s thriller has continued to screen to acclaim in Australia and at several North American festivals this past week.
Ivan Sen has continued sitting for interviews promoting the film, as have star Aaron Pedersen and supporting actor Jack Thompson. Hugo has probably been unavailable for promotional duties because he’s in the middle of rehearsals for Waiting For Godot, which begins its STC run next month. But the cast/director interviews are all well worth a look, as the more thoughtful journalists have asked a lot of interesting thematic questions, which Sen has answered thoroughly without (in most cases) divulging too much or robbing the audience of their own interpretations. Hugo’s character seems to be drawing the most diverse interpretation, though all are agreed its a brilliant performance. I think Johnno’s ambiguity is a part of why he’s so fascinating, and the fact that some viewers think he’s an absolute villain and others a tortured hero amuses me to no end. (For the record, I don’t think he’s either, but I won’t tell much more until more fans are able to see the film and develop heir own take.)
Anyhow: the latest promotional interviews:
And here’s a wonderfully in-depth interview with Jack Thompson and production manager Craig Deeker, taped at the London Film Festival by TasticFilm:
You can read the latest batch of well-written reviews at Issimo Magazine, Film Carew/themusic.com.au, Junkee, Cinephilia, Rip It Up, InDaily, Quip Magazine, Dr Frootloop, City News, Pretty Clever Films, The Arts Scene, Jabba At The Movies/Sunrise 7 (video review), The Australian, 3AW Blogs, HeyUGuys, Catholic Church Australia, Greg King, and The Momus Report.
In Other Hugo News
Variety confirms that Hugo Weaving’s role as the “presenter” of Anand Gandhi in Australia will involve a name-above-the-title credit as well as other unspecified promotional duties for the film’s November 7 release.
And, though I remain unconvinced that Hugo Weaving has a substantial role in The Desolation of Smaug, it’s always a delight to read Ian McKellen’s take on playing Gandalf again, this time in a Dark Horizons interview.