Justin Kurzel Set to Direct Apple's ‘Shantaram’ Series

Justin Kurzel

The 10-episode original, based on the best-selling novel by Gregory David Roberts, will shoot in Victoria, Australia from October.

Snowtown and Macbeth helmer Justin Kurzel is moving into television, where he will direct the first two and final two episodes of Paramount Television and Anonymous Content’s 10-episode epic Shantaram for Apple TV, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

The seriesbased on the best-selling novel by Australian writer Gregory David Roberts, will shoot in Victoria from October. Kurzel will reportedly be the set-up director from a script by Eric Warren Singer and produced by Anonymous Content’s Steve Golin and Nicole Clemens and Paramount Television. 

A fictionalized account of David Roberts’ life, Shantaram tells the story of Lin, a one-time bank robber and heroin addict who escaped from Melbourne’s infamous maximum security Pentridge Prison. His life on the run took him to Germany and the slums of Mumbai, where he set up a medical clinic as a way of giving back to the community, followed by his involvement with freedom fighters against the Russians in Afghanistan. The novel has been published in 39 languages in 42 territories worldwide and has sold more than 6 million copies.

Various iterations of Shantaram as a feature film have been in development since 2004 when Johnny Depp acquired the rights. Mira Nair was at one time attached to direct a film, while Joel Edgerton was set to star in a version. Anonymous Content and Paramount Television acquired the TV rights in January 2018.

The Australian government will provide $5 million (AUS$7.4 million) for the production through its Location Incentive program, with the Victorian government also supporting the production through Film Victoria’s Production Incentive Attraction Fund. 

Shantaram will be filmed at Docklands Studios, Pentridge Prison and other locations, some of which will substitute for Mumbai, and is expected to attract more than $37 million in investment, employ around 330 cast and crew and use the services of more than 500 local businesses, according to Australian Communications and Arts Minister Paul Fletcher. 

Shantaram is a mesmerizing Australian story and this series will bring it to life for a new generation, creating further jobs for our world-class screen industry,” said Fletcher. 

Australia is experiencing a boom in international film and TV production. Marvel Studios' Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings is in preproduction at Fox Studios Australia in NSW followed by Thor: Love & Thunder. In Queensland, Warner Bros.' Elvis feature is also in preproduction at Village Roadshow Studios. Paramount Pictures' feature Monster Problems and ABC America’s TV series Reef Break recently wrapped; season four of Sony Television’s Preacher also recently wrapped in Melbourne; and Adelaide is hosting Warner Bros.' Mortal Kombat, filming at SAFC's Adelaide Studios.

Kurzel’s latest feature, True History of the Kelly Gang,will have its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September.