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Rebel Wilson is getting behind the camera and has lined up her first feature as director.
The Deb, in which Wilson will also co-star, will be a musical comedy set in rural Australia, produced by Amanda Ghost, Len Blavatnik, and Gregor Cameron via their company Unigram (Tetris) and sister company AI Film (I, Tonya, Hacksaw Ridge).
Adapted from of the original hit musical of the same name — which debuted to critical acclaim in Australia — The Deb will be produced in partnership with Rebel Wilson’s Camp Sugar Productions (Senior Year, The Hustle) and award-winning Australian producer Bunya Productions (The Drover’s Wife, Mystery Road). Danny Cohen executive produces on behalf of Blavatnik’s Access Entertainment.
Originally premiering at Sydney’s Australian Theatre for Young People (ATYP) in 2022, The Deb stage production was written by Hannah Reilly (Sheilas, Growing up Gracefully) and includes original songs from singer-songwriter Meg Washington (The Beach). Production is set to begin in Australia in September.
The Deb follows lovable farm girl and high school outcast Taylah Simpkins (Natalie Abbott), who is certain the upcoming Debutante Ball, “the Deb,” is her one chance to redefine herself. When her cynical city cousin Maeve (Charlotte MacInnes) is exiled to Taylah’s drought-stricken town Dunburn, she thinks the ball is a “heteronormative shit-show” and immediately disrupts the status quo. In their search for the spotlight, Taylah and Maeve dig deep to find self-acceptance — and a date to the Deb.
The adaptation will feature a cast of rising Australian stars, including MacInnes (who had an award-nominated performance in ATYP’s The Deb), award-nominated Abbott (Aftertaste, A Perfect Pairing, Global Creature’s Muriel’s Wedding the Musical) and Stevie Jean (2022 winner of NT Music Award for Rock Song of the Year).
Popular local talent will also include Tara Morice (Strictly Ballroom, Moulin Rouge, Dance Academy), Jay Laga’aia (Nim’s Island, Star Wars, The Lion King, Wicked), Shane Jacobson (Kenny, The Bourne Legacy, The Dressmaker, Hairspray) and Wilson (Pitch Perfect trilogy, Bridesmaids, Isn’t It Romantic).
The musical production was an instant hit in Australia, with critics hailing it “a love letter to…learning how to celebrate what makes you unique,” and lauding the script for celebrating “a new joyful onstage movement of women-centered, lovingly local stories with big laughs and big pop choruses.”
“The Deb is my type of movie — full of humor, full of heart, and uniquely Australian but with universal themes. It came out of my scholarship program at the non-profit Australian Theatre for Young People, a program that I’m very proud of and has had incredible success. If there was ever a movie I was going to direct, it would be this one,” said Wilson. “This project is just so special and original. Hannah and Meg have done an outstanding job writing it, and to collaborate with Amanda, Len, Gregor, and the team at Bunya down under has been amazing. We’re utilizing the best musical resources in the world and the most fantastic Australian talent to bring this project to the screen.”
Added Wilson: “I grew up watching Australian classics like Muriel’s Wedding, The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and Baz Luhrmann’s early films. My goal is to create an Australian work that rivals those masterpieces and travels internationally. I know I can bring the funny, and hopefully it’ll be just as moving as well.”
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