Almost always studios and producers embark on remakes of films that were hits or at least memorable, but there is a far different motive behind Tackling Romeo.
Writer-director Lynda Heys and Steve Turnbull, her producing partner in Faraway Films Entertainment, are making a new version of their 1999 Australian film which they claim was “destroyed and buried.”
Released as Kick, the original starred Russell Page, Rebecca Yates, Martin Henderson, Radha Mitchell, Jason Clarke and Paul Mercurio. The plot followed a champion high school rugby player who secretly wants to be a ballet dancer and bravely auditions for a local company's staging of Romeo and Juliet.
Turnbull blames the film’s distributor, which he declines to name, for slashing Heys’ 115-minute version to 85 minutes and dumping it on home video.
“It was buried; no one got to see it or hear of it,” he tells IF. “It was not our film, which was destroyed. It was a terrible incarnation of a script which the FFC described as one of the best they had seen.”
Thanks to Katherine Heads and the team at Deluxe Australia, all the 35mm footage that was shot was digitally restored, enabling Heys to make her director’s cut.
That version has been shown to numerous people including choreographer Graeme Murphy and his creative partner Janet Vernon, who have agreed to work on the new production. Turnbull also credits Brian Rosen when he was CEO of the FFC with helping them to secure the remake rights.
Cuban-born Carlos Acosta, currently performing in Queensland Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet, has been cast as Alejandro Ramírez, who serves as choreographer and mentor to the schoolboy Bobby Sherwood. A national and international casting search is underway for the part of Bobby and other key characters.
The plan is to start shooting in Melbourne and at Sydney’s Luna Park before the end of the year, using the producer offset. The producers have secured significant investment from a Middle Eastern film financier and hope to get funding from Screen Australia. He’s in talks with Australian distributors and with sales agents in the US, London and Australia.
The top-notch crew includes DOP Peter James, editor Mark Warner, composer Nerida Tyson-Chew, costume designer Jenny Irwin and production designer Robbie Perkins.
“We’re aiming for mainstream audiences; the film will have a lot of heart and depth,” he says. The new version will be “modernised,” with slightly stronger language designed for a PG-13 rating rather than a G.
Andrew Robinson, Peter Flynn and Leanne Tonkes are serving as executive producers, with Sarah Brewer as co-executive producer.