Phillip Noyce’s Rabbit- Proof Fence may seem to have nothing in common with his latest film, The Giver, a dystopian sci-fi drama which stars Jeff Bridges, Meryl Steep, Brenton Thwaites, Katie Holmes and Taylor Swift.
But there are strong thematic similarities between his 2002 Stolen Generations drama and the US-financed film based on a young adult novel by Lois Lowry.
“Both are about insiders who finds themselves on the outside of their community,” the director told IF from New York, where he’s working around the clock in an editing suite.
“Ïn The Giver, Jonas, the central character, lives in an overbearing, very doctrinaire society. He sets off on a very long journey to find a true home. Thematically that is similar to my earlier films Newsfront, Heatwave and Clear and Present Danger.”
Noyce cast young Aussie Brenton Thwaites as Jonas. Bridges is The Giver, an old man who teaches Jonas how to use his unique gifts. Streep is the society’s Chief Elder, an authoritative and antagonistic woman. Holmes and Alexander Skarsgård play the boy's parents.
The medium-budgeted film is backed by The Weinstein Company and Walden Media and was shot in South Africa and in Utah, where the finale happens high in the mountains. He's a big fan of the cost-effectiveness of filming in South Africa, with the building of sets and availability of local crew.
Asked how he persuaded Streep to take the role, he said, “She loved the book and Harvey (Weinstein) is very winning.”
Eighteen months ago Noyce wanted to cast Thwaites as the lead in Timeless, a US romantic drama about a young guy whose wife dies, prompting him to enlist the help of the world’s best minds to try to build a scientific marvel to turn back time and reunite him with his lost love.
The producers, Relativity Media, rejected Thwaites, then an unknown whose credits included Home and Away, the telemovie Blue Lagoon: The Awakening and Save Your Legs! , and the project was aborted.
That may prove to be a short-sighted decision as Thwaites is a fast rising star, having appeared in Disney’s upcoming Maleficent opposite Angelina Jolie and in Julius Avery’s Son of a Gun with Ewan McGregor and Alicia Vikander. Now he’s the co-lead in Alex Proyas’ action-adventure Gods of Egypt.
Noyce is working hard to complete The Giver in time for the US launch on August 15; it opens here on August 21 via Roadshow. Lowry has written other books featuring the same character so a sequel is possible.
Next on the agenda for Noyce is American Pastoral, based on the Philip Roth novel about a successful Jewish-American businessman whose upper middle class life is ruined by the social and political turmoil of the 1960s during the presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson.
He’s wanted to make the film for a dozen years but only now has managed to secure the finance from Lakeshore Entertainment. The difference-maker was securing Ewan McGregor as the lead. Shooting is due to start in Pittsburgh next March.