Jonathan Teplitzky’s WWII drama is generating plenty of heat among US buyers. 
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17 Jan 2013 - 4:22 PM  UPDATED 17 Jan 2013 - 4:22 PM

US distributors are clamouring to buy Jonathan Teplitzky's The Railway Man, understandably drawn by the stellar cast led by Colin Firth, Nicole Kidman, Stellan Skarsgård, War Horse's Jeremy Irvine and Hiroyuki Sanada.

But the producers and their US sales agent, talent agency CAA, are spurning all offers until the film is completed and screened for potential buyers, probably around the time of the Cannes Film Festival in May.

Chris Brown, who shared producing duties with London-based Andy Paterson, tells SBS Film he's not sure if the film will be ready to premiere at Cannes, noting, “We are not rushing it”. The score is being written by David Hirschfelder, who worked on Shine, Elizabeth, Teplitzy's Better than Sex and Baz Luhrmann's Australia.

Firth stars as Eric Lomax, a British officer who was captured and forced to work on the construction of the Thai/Burma railway during WWII. Years later, he meets a woman (Kidman) who helps him deal with his demons and encourages him to meet his former tormentor (Sanada). Skarsgård plays Lomax's wartime buddy.

Frank Cottrell Boyce and Paterson adapted their screenplay from Lomax's book; Lomax died last October. Transmission will release the film in Australia. The make-them-wait US strategy differs from the approach taken by the international sales agent Lionsgate, which pre-sold the film to every territory, including Kadokawa in Japan, where Sanada is a major drawcard. Brown expects Lionsgate will bid for the US rights.

The UK-Australian co-production could not have happened without Australia's 40 percent producer offset, Brown says. He met Paterson in Cannes when John Hillcoat's The Proposition, which Brown produced, premiered there in 2005. Paterson had bought the rights to Lomax's book and the two agreed to collaborate.

Brown produced family adventure film Nim's Island: The Return of the Pirates, which opens in Australia on April 4 via Pinnacle. The sequel to Nim's Island stars Bindi Irwin, US actor Matthew Lillard (The Descendants, Scooby Doo), John Waters and Toby Wallace. In the US the film will bypass cinemas, premiering on Video-On-Demand platforms and on DVD, the latter via an exclusive deal with Wal-Mart stores.

Among the projects on Brown's slate is a sequel to Bait 3D, which he executive produced and is being workshopped by various writers. Brown hopes Kimble Rendell will return to the director's chair but there's no deal yet. Producer Gary Hamilton is negotiating another co-production with China, where Bait unexpectedly grossed more than $25 million. One challenge for the writers will be figuring out how to extricate the killer shark from the submerged supermarket.

He's developing several co-productions and looking at projects with international settings, including Brazil and Singapore. “You have to look for partners if you want to make films of a certain size and value,” he says. ”With the producer offset we are very attractive partners.”