A film based on a gritty John Katzenbach novel is next on the agenda for the producers of Fred Schepisi’s drama.
24 Oct 2011 - 10:18 AM  UPDATED 27 Feb 2014 - 12:41 PM

The producers of The Eye of the Storm are planning a movie based on John Katzenbach's 2004 novel The Madman's Tale, the saga of a troubled man who spent years in a mental institution and is later haunted by memories of the rape and murder of a nurse.

Katzenbach has written the screenplay, the first time the American author has adapted one of his novels for the screen; among his books that have been turned into films are The Mean Season, Just Cause and Hart's War.

The producers aim to start shooting in mid-2012 on locations in the US and Australia with Gregory Read as the director, his second feature following Like Minds, the 2006 murder mystery that starred Toni Collette, Eddie Redmayne and Tom Sturridge.

Read initially set up the project with US producer Elliot Kastner in 2007 and filming was due to start later that year with Jonathan Rhys Meyers as the lead character, Francis Petrel.

The narrative follows his efforts to write a book on the events surrounding the murder as he forgoes his medication and battles madness.

But there were issues with casting and financing and Kastner never got to make another film; he died in 2010, aged 80.

Read put the project on hold while he focussed on The Eye of the Storm. On The Madman's Tale he's collaborating with his fellow producers from Schepisi's film, Edward Simpson, Antony Waddington and Jonathan Shteinman.

“In the wash-up from The Eye of the Storm people are throwing scripts at me and this is without doubt one of the two or three best scripts I've ever read; it's a cracker,” Simpson told SBS Movies.

Simpson indicated the first priority is to assemble the cast, a combination of Australian and US actors, before arranging the financing. “We're chasing people whom I won't name who are very interested and we're close but we're not there yet,” he said.

Transmission will distribute the film in Australia, continuing its association with the production team after handling Schepisi's movie. The producers expect the budget will be about $14 million and aim to take advantage of the 40 per cent producer offset.

A qualified lawyer (who never practiced), classical pianist and theatre actor/producer, Simpson cheerfully acknowledges he's been bitten by the movie “bug” after his initiation in the industry on Schepisi's film.

The producers hope to soon finalise a US distribution deal for The Eye of the Storm after it was warmly received at the Toronto International Film Festival.

“We are in advanced discussions with several distributors right now but nothing inked as yet,” Simpson said. “We are also screening in the Rome Festival (this week) and have lined up follow-up screenings in Los Angeles, London and New York.” They're banking that a US deal will trigger sales to other international territories, repped by Robbie Little's LA-based The Little Film Company.

Simpson said he's keen to work with Schepisi again, observing, “Why he hasn't had a film up in the last couple of years prior to The Eye of the Storm (his previous credit was the 2005 HBO telemovie Empire Falls) is a bit of a disgrace. What are the other producers doing? Why wouldn't they have used his abilities and his talent and experience?”