Sunday, October 5, 2008

International Stars Invade Aussie Industry

One actor seeks Aussie movie!

In Mark Hartley's fabulous doco Not Quite Hollywood there was a passage devoted to the international stars who were "shipped in" to star in Australian productions. They were the result of producers seeking bigger names in order to secure American sales for their films. Stacy Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis for Richard Franklin's Roadgames, Dennis Hopper in Phillipe Mora's Mad Dog Morgan, Robert Powell for Harlequin and Survivor, Steve Railsback and Olivia Hussey for Brian Trenchard-Smith's Turkey Shoot and so on. They were never the biggest stars in the world, but they secured international purchases for the lucrative American market and European markets.

Throughout the years since there have been several big international names cast in Australian films - Terrence Stamp famously portrayed a transvestite in The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert from 1994 and James Cromwell was brought in for Babe in 1995, however, let's not remember Molly Ringwald being imported for Cut, okay?! - but it seems it is becoming more and more common again. In these days where the dire state of the Australian film industry is a recurring subject on any Australian-based film blog or website, perhaps producers are clueing in and going back to the "well duh!" idea that stars get you exposure.

Tony Ayres' Home Song Stories would surely not have reached anywhere outside of it's home nation without the casting of Joan Chen, same too for Clubland (known as Introducing the Dwights in America) without Brenda Blethyn and Jindabyne without it's Laura Linney/Gabriel Byrne double-coup. Part of the reason Greg McLean was able to get so much financing for his killer croc flick Rogue was because he was able to cast Michael Vartan. It seems that every second new Aussie production though is hailing the casting of an International actor.

The Australia/UK co-production Accidents Happen stars Erik Thompson who is currently starring in huge TV hit Packed to the Rafters, but the film also strangely stars American actress Geena Davis. If this goes theatrical, it will be Davis' first cinema release since 2002's Stuart Little 2 after working in TV and direct-to-DVD sequels.

Disgrace has been discussed around here already. It stars John Malkovich and if it's reviews out of the Toronto Film Festival were any indication it could be a break out film on the international circuit.

Scott Hicks, the director behind Aussie biopic Shine and American films Snow Falling on Cedars and No Reservations, has cast Clive Owen in his Adelaide-shot Aussie feature The Boys are Back in Town. Owen joins a cast that includes Emma Booth (Clubland), George McKay (Defiance) and Julia Blake (Innocence).

Oscar-winner Adam Elliot (Harvey Krumpet) has been tirelessly working away at his first feature-length claymation film, titled Mary & Max. Alongside the voice cast of Toni Collette, Eric Bana and Barry Humphries amongst others will be Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman will voice Max, "a 44-year-old, "severely obese" New York Jewish man with Asperger's Syndrome." Naturally.

Mao's Last Dancer, from Australian director Bruce Beresford, features Jack Thompson and Aden Young but actually stars Kyle MacLachlan, Joan Chen (Twin Peaks reunion!!!omg!) and Bruce Greenwood. I thought this was an international co-production, but it turns out it is not so I am quite surprised they managed to get away with so many noteworthy international names in the lead roles. It also has Amanda Schull, people! AMANDA SCHULL!! How incredibly random.

Sleeper, which I spoke about recently, stars American WWE fighter "Raven". The horror genre is the most obvious place to find these fly-ins.


Paul Martin said...

This isn't a uniquely Australian phenomenon. I've been ranting for years about the English habit of including a token yank and the US reciprocating with a token Brit. It's clearly a marketing device to maximise audiences in different markets.

What I think is also an interesting area for local exploration is the idea of international co-production. The soon-to-be-released Australian/Israeli $9.99 is one such example, and Shine (Austalia/UK) is another. I think more of our films could get the distribution and support they need by this sort of collaboration.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Indeed, although the UK is generally seen as a bit less like "lower class" filmmaking.

And the US and UK are different in that they have a lot of stars who stay in their country whereas a lot of Australians ship on out as soon as they get fame so, for instance, the UK routinely produces films with big name stars because it's easier for actors to keep a career going there. Not the case here, unfortunately.

Ben Wilson said...

Doesn't it seem that all too often, when an American is included in an Aussie film, it's so obviously just for financing reasons? It was one thing for Helena Bonham-Varter to do Till Human Voices Wake us, with Guy Pierce (she played an Australian, which presumably means no Australian actresses were available at the time. But then, Renee was Bridget Jones...).

But when Susan Sarandon was shipped in for the TRAGICALLY UNDERRATED Irresistable, I got a little bit upset. There was absolutely no reason for her to be in that role, as terrific and talented as she is. It would have been nice to give an Australian actress of that age a shot at a real movie that wasn't about drugs or outer-suburban boring "battler" stories. And then they cast the British Emily Blunt in the supporting role. Again, obviously every up and coming Australian actress was just too busy that day.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Well that's what I was saying. In order to get a smaller film like Irresistible or Home Song Stories or Clubland seen by anybody outside of Australia you need to have a name in the cast and, hey, if Susan Sarandon is willing to star in your suburban thriller then why not?!

However, disregarding my thoughts on Irresistible (more tragic than tragically underrated) I do sometimes see international casting as more logical than other times. Linney and Byrne fit right in with Jindabyne and the same goes for Chen or Blethyn in their flicks, but watching Sarandon and Blunt in Irresistible was just plain odd. Not that I would have liked to have seen Kerry Armstrong in Sarandon's role either, mind.

I asked Ann Turner (the director of Irrisistible) after a screening how she managed to get Sarandon and Blunt and in her bitchiest tone possible she replied to me "I sent them the script." You could hear the "duh, idiot!" in her voice as she said it too. What a rude cow. And even after Sarandon made Turner rewrite the script to meet her satisfaction it was still a load of wank. Rude. Cow.

btw, The US and UK industries are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. The moment we go comparing them (not to mention our actor system) is the moment we lose the plot.

I also meant to mention another Aussie horror flick called The Gates of Hell. No Americans in the cast, but apparently the Australian actors actually speak in American accents. Yet another old school method.

Syms Covington said...

What an amazing summary. Glad someone else is watching out for Accidents Happpen.