Hicks, Noyce to helm new Oz features


SYDNEY -- Directors Scott Hicks and Phillip Noyce will helm two new Australian features next year with backing from the Film Finance Corp. Australia, the funding agency announced Wednesday.

Hicks will direct "The Boys Are Back In Town," a U.K.-Australian co-production and his first Australian feature since "Shine."

"Boys" tells the story of a sportswriter who is suddenly thrust into single parenthood and must bring up two sons from different marriages.

The film will be produced by "Billy Elliot" producer Greg Brenman and Tim White through Southern Light Films and has been presold to Hopscotch, BBC Films, Dea Planeta and Capitol Films. The screenplay, courtesy of "Prime Suspect" writer Alan Cubbit, is based on the book by U.K. sportswriter Simon Carr.

Noyce, meanwhile, is moving ahead with "Dirt Music," a psychological romance set in the remote northwest of Australia. Justin Monjo and Pip Karmel are adapting the screenplay from the best-selling book by Australian author Tim Winton.

Noyce announced this year that Rachel Weisz and Heath Ledger were attached to star in "Dirt Music," though Ledger reportedly pulled out of the project last month citing scheduling conflicts with the next Batman movie, in which he plays the Joker. Shooting on "Dirt Music" is expected to take place on location next year.

Noyce will co-produce with producing partner Miranda Culley through their Rumbalara Films, with Mushroom Films' Martin Fabinyi, Michael Gudinski and Jeremy Thomas executive producing.

Two additional features also were approved for financing in the FFC's final round for the year -- Adam Elliot's first full-length claymation feature, "Mary and Max," which will be narrated by Barry Humphries, and adult thriller "The Square," written by actor Joel Edgerton and Matthew Dabner. Edgerton's brother Nash is producing and Joel will star alongside Rose Byrne.

The FFC also greenlighted three TV dramas, 2 children's TV dramas and 18 documentaries.