Guy Pearce joins Oz's 'Animal Kingdom'

Crime drama also stars Ben Mendelson, Joel Edgerton

SYDNEY -- Guy Pearce will star alongside fellow Aussies Ben Mendelson and Joel Edgerton in director David Michod's first feature, the crime drama "Animal Kingdom," funding agency Screen Australia said Wednesday.

Funded by Screen Australia under the model inherited from the defunct Film Finance Corp., "Kingdom" centers on a 17-year-old who tries to survive a criminal family with help from a cop (Pearce).

Produced by Liz Watts, "Kingdom" also will star veteran actress Jackie Weaver and be distributed in Australia and New Zealand by Madman. Maximum Sales is handling international sales and a presale to pay TV network Showtime Australia.

"Kingdom" leads off a group of five films that will be among the last funded by Screen Australia under the existing funding models inherited from the Film Finance Corp., which remain in place until Jan. 1.

Screen Australia is giving conditional financing to four projects, including the next film from acclaimed Australian director Ray Lawrence, "Being Dead," based on Jim Crace's novel.

Also due to receive funding are Belinda Chayko's debut feature "Lou," a romantic buddy movie from comic writer Peter Hellier; director Diana Read's "I Love You Too"; and Greg Woodland's vampire love story, "Pangs," set to be produced by Robert Raymond.

Raymond also will produce surfing documentary "Going Vertical," to be made by David Bradbury in Australia, Hawaii and California.

Screen Australia also said it will finance the second season of the Nine Network's hit crime drama, "Underbelly."