Hollywood stars

From Matt Damon to Zac Efron, Hollywood stars are heading to Australia. The same goes for their lucrative movie projects

If Hollywood history were a movie, 2020 would be the dark night of the soul – the moment when all hope seems lost.

In North America, last year saw the lowest number of movie tickets sold per capita in at least 40 years, if not a century.

And as the coronavirus situation has steadily worsened, it’s been difficult not just to screen movies, but to shoot them.

This raised concerns about the lack of content in the pipeline just when demand from home consumers was highest.

As Patrick Clair, the designer of the Emmy-winning title, told the ABC in September: “I think we’re all going to have to get very creative about how we continue to tell stories in a world where filming is restricted for security reasons.”

Liam Neeson, star of films like Non-Stop, Taken, Love Actually and Schindler’s List, toured Australia in 2020.(Provided)

One option pursued is to go where the virus is not.

“The international spotlight is firmly on Australia,” Ausfilm CEO Kate Marks told a parliamentary committee last month.

With little COVID transmission and a $400 million federal government localization incentive, “the world is now watching [Australia] as a destination for the production of high-quality international screen content. »

Money from foreign production is flowing in

Ausfilm, which has offices in Australia and the United States, had received applications for 37 projects in the five months to December, a 300% increase from the same period in 2019.

These productions were worth a total of $2.1 billion.

Films include Escape From Spiderhead, a Netflix sci-fi film adapted from a short story by George Saunders and starring Chris Hemsworth.

The film, which will be shot in Queensland, will bring in around $47 million to the local economy, according to the Queensland government, and will hire 360 ​​cast and crew members.

Color image of Chris Hemsworth with streaks of lightning emanating from his armor in the 2019 film Avengers: Endgame.
Chris Hemsworth will reprise his role as Thor in Thor: Love and Thunder, filming in Sydney. He is also filming a new film for Netflix in Queensland.(Provided: Marvel Studios)

A new Ron Howard film about the Thai cave rescue, Thirteen Lives, will also shoot in Queensland from March, while three Matchbox Pictures/NBCUniversal series will shoot in the state over the next 18 months.

As these and other projects are underway, they are bringing not just money but high-profile celebrities to Australian shores, many of whom are finding relief from their home country’s COVID crisis. .

But while the productions are welcome, the arrival of some stars has sparked anger.

Matt Damon, Melissa McCarthy and more call Australia home

Matt Damon arrived in Australia in early January and was controversially granted permission to quarantine at a private residence in Byron Bay, a move some say represented a double standard.

He is believed to have a role in Thor: Love and Thunder, the next installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, due out early next year.

This film, written and directed by Taika Waititi, is filming in Sydney and will also star Natalie Portman, Christian Baleand Chris Pratt.

Zac Efron spent a lot of time in Australia in 2020, mostly staying in Byron Bay before moving further south.

He recently traveled to South Australia to shoot Gold, an original film by Stan about two explorers who find a nugget of gold in the desert.

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The Irish action star Liam Neeson was in Australia late last year to shoot Blacklight.

The film shot in Melbourne in November and Canberra in January and features Neeson as an “unofficial FBI repairman”.

Directed by Ozark co-creator Mark Williams, Blacklight will inject $43 million into the local economy and create 500 jobs, according to the federal government.

It also created a bit of a stir in Canberra, which apparently has perfect streets for filming car chase scenes.

You might recall that Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis biopic was forced to come to a halt in March last year when tom hank and his wife Rita Wilson have become two of the first celebrities to be diagnosed with COVID-19.

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No one else on production was infected and work resumed in September.

At that time, Hanks was granted an exemption from hotel quarantine because, said Chief Health Officer Jeannette Young, the film industry “brings a lot of money into this state.”

This drew criticism from the Prime Minister and others. Prime Minister Annastacia Palaszczuk has defended allowing Hanks to self-quarantine at a private residence, saying it’s part of the film industry’s COVID safety plan.

The film is slated for release in November, with Austin Butler playing Elvis and Hanks as the singer’s manager, Colonel Tom.

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Nicole Kidman is back in her home country — with husband Keith Urban in tow — to create Nine Perfect Strangers, a Hulu series.

The series was filmed around Byron Bay, where co-star Melissa McCarthy and her family also lived, and is based on a novel by Liane Moriarty, who also wrote Big Little Lies.

Production wrapped in December with the show, created by David E Kelly, set to air this year.

Australia can remain popular beyond COVID

Screen Australia director Graeme Mason said while productions could be overseas, there were benefits for local workers.

“Whether it’s the set dresser or the handle or whatever it is, by and large they’re Aussies, and it provides amazing jobs and skills for those people,” said he told the committee.

“They send their children to school and they do it because of this work.”

The desire to film in Australia is not expected to diminish much even after the pandemic is over.

There is a shortage of production space around the world, according to Ausfilm’s Dr Nick Herd, and Australia has high-quality facilities, including Village Roadshow studios on the Gold Coast, where the film Elvis of Luhrmann is shot.

He told the committee that when you add to that the growing thirst for content, as streaming platforms multiply, it equates to strong demand in the local sector that will span the next decade.

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