Chris Hemworth and Russell Crowe. (Left image: Flickr, Right image: Eva Rinaldi)

The NSW screen sector has been dealt a double blow as a result of COVID, with production on Russell Crowe’s thriller Poker Face shut down as a result of a confirmed case, while a Netflix project starring Chris Hemsworth that planned to shoot in the state has relocated to Europe.

In a series of tweets published on Tuesday, Crowe – who directs and stars in the high stakes thriller – confirmed a positive COVID case amongst the crew, as well as a second possible positive case under investigation.

“Unfortunately 6 days from the end of our shoot on Poker Face we have had a confirmed positive COVID case amongst our crew and a second possible positive under further investigation by our Poker Face Covid team and NSW Health,” he wrote.

“For the safety of cast and crew and the wider community, the production has been immediately paused and everyone instructed to isolate whilst the situation is looked into. We have followed strict protocols with cast and crew being tested 3 times a week for the past 11+ weeks.”

In a statement made to IF, producers said the production had been operating under strict COVID-Safe guidelines and was “committed to ensuring utmost safety to cast, crew, and the wider Sydney community”.

Filming had been taking place around Sydney’s Fox Studios on the project, in which Crowe plays a tech billionaire caught in a risky card game.

It is believed to be the first Australian production halted as a result of a COVID case since Elvis shutdown during pre-production in March 2020 after Tom Hanks contracted the virus.

Produced by Arclight, the cast also includes Liam Hemsworth, Elsa Pataky, and Wu-Tang Clan frontman RZA.

The older Hemsworth brother has also had NSW shooting plans affected by the ongoing outbreak, with Netflix moving production on the sequel to action blockbuster Extraction to Europe.

IF understands the streamer was due to begin filming the project in either September or October within the state.

Deadline reported last year that Joe Russo had returned to pen a follow up to Extraction, which stars Hemsworth as mercenary Tyler Rake.

While Netflix has declined to comment, a source close to the production told IF a combination of potential disruption to the lead actor’s tight schedule, and the logistics of moving across regional locations in the state, had led to the decision.

“What it came down to was Chris’s timeline,” they said.

“He’s got the Mad Max prequel which will likely go into pre-production by the end of this year so there needed to be a bit more certainty with this.

“The other thing was that there were big chunks that were going to be filmed in regional NSW, and even though filming is considered an essential business, the production would have had to have gotten special authorisation to go into regional areas, so it was just too risky to take 400 people from Sydney into an area like that.”

The news comes less than a month after HBO Films announced it would not continue production on TV movie Days of Abandonment in Sydney following the withdrawal of star Natalie Portman due to unforeseen personal circumstances.

The NSW Government has been contacted for comment.

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