Oz/NZ dilemma for historical drama

10 July, 2014 by Don Groves

The casting search has begun in Australia for the supporting roles in The Light Between Oceans, a Hollywood adaptation of Australian author M.L. Stedman’s debut novel set on an island off the coast of WA in 1918.

Although principal photography is due to start in late September, it’s not clear where the DreamWorks-financed film directed by Derek Cianfrance (The Place Beyond the Pines) will be shot.


Talent agents have been told it will be either Australia or New Zealand. Last year IF reported that Ausfilm and Screen Australia had been in discussions on the project with DreamWorks since it bought the screen rights.

However producers David Heyman (Harry Potter, Yes Man, Is Anybody There?) and Jeffrey Clifford have yet to announce the location. Heyman and Cianfrance were on a scouting trip Down Under several months ago.

It would not be surprising if they chose New Zealand, where the government raised the rebates for offshore productions to 20%, plus a further 5% if there are specific benefits to New Zealand, on April 1.

That’s far more attractive than Australia’s 16.5% location rebate, which the Oz industry has long argued is no longer competitive and should be raised to 30%.

The Kiwi package was pivotal in persuading James Cameron and Jon Landau’s Lightstorm Entertainment and Twentieth Century Fox to shoot the next three Avatars in Kiwiland, generating a combined production spend of at least $NZ500 million.

Stedman’s novel revolves around a lighthouse keeper and his wife who find a 2-month-old girl and a dead body in a rowboat and decide to raise the baby as their own.

Michael Fassbender and Swedish actress Alicia Vikander are in advanced talks to play the leads, according to Deadline.com.

Vikander, whose breakthrough role was in the Nikolaj Arcel-directed, foreign language Oscar-nominated A Royal Affair, co-starred with Ewan McGregor in Son Of A Gun, an Australian heist thriller directed by first-timer Julius Avery which opens here in October via eOne.