Two brothers who thrive on making smart genre films, Brisbane-based writer/directors Michael and Peter Spierig, have started casting, location scouting and appointing behind-the-camera talent in earnest now that the finance they require is in place for their upcoming film Predestination.
Predestination, a sequel to the chilling Wolf Creek (2005), and Charlie's Country, from Australia's internationally best-known auteur filmmaker Rolf de Heer, are the three latest films to win investment from Federal Government film agency Screen Australia.
The commitment for Predestination is the last piece of finance needed to make the ambitious film, producer Tim McGahan told SBS Film. It therefore allows he and the Spierigs to cement all the discussions and negotiations they've been having with potential partners. This week they have been focussing on casting, in particular the four principal roles, one of which is set to be filled by Ethan Hawke, who also starred in Daybreakers.
“We are looking for significant Australia cast,” said McGahan. “We are also incredibly happy with the depth of up and coming young actors.”
Predestination has been much discussed in sci-fi and horror blogs and websites since word first got out abut it last year, in part because of interest in the work of the Spierig brothers, but also because of the source material: a short story titled – All You Zombies – written by Robert A Heinlein, considered one of the great science fictions writers alongside Phillip K Dick, Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke.
McGahan, who is producing with Paddy McDonald, describes Heinlein's tale as “an incredible story”, and one which they are treating with “a great deal of respect, which generates both pressure and nervousness.”
At this stage the story is billed, quite simply, as being about a temporal agent who has to recruit his younger self to pursue the one criminal who has for a lifetime eluded him. In fact the short story has a very complex narrative. Among other things it explores the possibility of time travel – and its implications – and includes a lot of twists and turns around gender.
The filmmakers dealt with those who handle Heinlein's estate in order to get the rights to the short story.
“It is a tricky piece of material and quite controversial, which works for and against the film,” said McGahan. “The thing that made a difference (in securing the rights) was the boys' vision. They thrive on genre, but smart genre. Their filmmaking is about facilitating bigger questions and this is very interesting ground to explore.”
McGahan and the Spierigs went to school together – McGahan said they met when he was nine years old – and worked together on television commercials before the Spierigs attracted considerable attention for the quality of their self-financed Undead. The subsequent production, Daybreakers, grossed more than $50 million worldwide. Predestination is expected to go into production in the first quarter of 2013.
Predestination got a lot of attention at the Cannes Film Festival when Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions signed on to screen the finished film in the US. Indeed, all three of the films recently backed by Screen Australia, are generating a lot of interest internationally: Wolf Creek 2 because of the success of its chilling predecessor; and Charlie's Country because of its indigenous theme and the interest in the work of its director.
De Heer and his collaborators expect to go into production on Charlie's Country in March or April next year. Like The Tracker it will star David Gulpilil and, like Ten Canoes, it will be filmed in Arnhem Land – and also in Darwin.
Unlike these two previous de Heer films with strong indigenous themes, Charlie's Country is set in the present day; at this stage it is being described as an uplifting tragi-comic portrait of one man's struggle to define himself as an Aboriginal in modern Australia.
Wolf Creek 2 will again be filmed in South Australia – from mid-January – with Greg McLean directing and John Jarratt playing the laconic outback killer Mick Taylor. The original was made for a few million dollars and grossed more than $27 million worldwide. Plans for the follow-up have been delayed because of a legal tussle involving the colourful former doctor Geoffrey Edelsten, who promised to be an investor.
Wolf Creek 2 will be released in local cinemas by Australia's largest home-grown distributor Roadshow, Charlie's Country will be handled by the medium-sized distributor Hopscotch, which was purchased early last year by Canadian company eOne, and Predestination will be released by small distributor Pinnacle Films.
Screen Australia will spend $5.5 million on these three films, which will cost $17million to make. The rest of the money will come from state government agencies and federal tax rebates, sales agents and Australian and international distributors.