“Joel was particularly interested in exploring the dynamic of relationships and the dynamic of men. You can see this through his choices of work both in terms of his acting and as a writer,” explains producer Rosemary Blight regarding her new film Felony, which marks actor Joel Edgerton's second screenwriting effort (after The Square). “I read his script and fell in love. It was extraordinary and just beautifully written, deeply emotional and engaging.”
Starring British veteran Tom Wilkinson, (The Ghost Writer), Melissa George and fellow on-the-rise Aussie actor Jai Courtney (Jack Reacher), Felony explores the plight of a recently decorated police officer (played by Edgerton) who becomes embroiled in a cover up following a drink driving traffic accident, which leaves a child in critical condition.
"This is a morality thriller. When you watch it you really see yourself in these situations,” continues Blight, who explains that the story explores the 'three stages of man', through the three main detective characters. “There's the young detective played by Jai Courtney who pursues the truth, because everything seems black and white when you're young. Then there's the middle detective, played by Edgerton, who's had some life experience and knows there's some grey areas. Finally, there's the older detective, played by Wilkinson, who has seen it all and knows that right and wrong isn't always so concrete and that every circumstance is different.”
To helm these cast of characters Blight turned to local film and television director Matthew Saville, (The Slap, Please Like Me) whose last feature was 2007's AFI award-winning drama Noise. “I think Matthew certainly stands tall in the Australian landscape as an incredible performance director. He really delivers a deep experience,” considers Blight. “I've known Matt's work for many years and for a while I've been saying that we've got to find a film together. Finally the opportunity arose.”
Blight, who previously produced The Sapphires to overwhelming overseas success, knows the secret of attracting such an impressive international ensemble cast. “My firm belief is that if an actor wants one thing, it's a great script,” she says. “Joel always had Tom Wilkinson in mind when he wrote the older detective role and so we sent it to him. Even though Tom wanted a break after a very busy film period, he got on a plane and said, 'I read the script and I just had to be here'.
“Jai Courtney was a real surprise for us as he left Australia really early to do Spartacus and then onto Jack Reacher and Die Hard 5, so we thought he was out of our reach, but he has a very good agent who read the script and kept putting him in front of us and Matthew absolutely wanted him. For such a young talent, Jai has incredible intelligence and I know when people see him in this it'll be something different because we've seen him in a lot of high-octane action movies lately. Felony will be a different kind of edge-of-your-seat.”
It has been recently announced that Felony will make its premiere at October's Toronto International Film Festival. Blight is quietly confident the film will connect with audiences. “At the end, the film fronts the audience to ask 'What would you do?' she reveals. “I really hope audiences will be deeply engaged in the dilemma and the morality of the film and that it becomes a talking point. I think the actors have delivered, under the helm of Matthew, some extraordinary performances – they're raw and they're true, and if people want to see great performances I know this film will deliver that to them.”
The producer is also looking forward to her newly appointed role as a Screen Australia board member. “I'm really happy to have that role and I think Screen Australia is an incredibly valuable institution,” she says. “If I can bring anything from being an active practitioner… and I think it's really important to have active practitioners on our boards. I'm honoured to have been asked.”