By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com April 24, 2012 at 11:19AM
In the 1980s and 1990s, Australian director Fred Schepisi was something of a big deal. The 73-year-old filmmaker got his start back in Oz with 1976's "The Devil's Playground," made his U.S. debut with the underrated Western "Barbarosa," and went on to make acclaimed, successful pictures like "Roxanne," "A Cry In The Dark," "The Russia House" and "Six Degrees Of Separation," as well as a few that didn't quite connect in the same way, like "I.Q." and "A Fish Called Wanda" semi-sequel "Fierce Creatures." The filmmaker's been relatively quiet in the last ten years, with 2003's Michael/Kirk/Cameron Douglas disaster "It Runs In The Family" and 2005's acclaimed HBO drama "Empire Falls," which featured Paul Newman's final live-action performance, as his only output.
But with his latest film "The Eye Of The Storm," a return to Australia that stars Geoffrey Rush, Judy Davis and Sam Neill, given a mammoth twelve nods at the Australian Film Institute awards (their equivalent of the Oscars), he's come roaring back, and has lined up a host of projects including what that looks to be his next, which has attracted two impressive stars. Screen Daily report from an interview with the filmmaker that French legend Juliette Binoche and Clive Owen are in final negotiations to star in the director's film "Words and Pictures," which will shoot next January in the U.S. Penned by Gerald Di Pego ("Sharky's Machine," "Phenomenon"), it'll see Binoche playing an artist forced into teaching by arthritis, with Owen as an English colleague who's "lost his mojo." The teachers initiate a competition among their students as to whether words or pictures are superior.
It's an impressive cast, indeed: Binoche is always wonderful, and Owen seems to be on the upswing again, as he's starring in Guillaume Canet's extremely promising "Blood Ties" (even as the film does sound a little saccharine, on paper at least). And it's far from the only project that the filmmaker's got in development: he's also attached to an adaptation of Kate Grenville's novel "The Secret River," an adaptation of Justin Fleming's play "Burnt Piano," about Samuel Beckett, an untitled Vietnam-set picture, a film version of hit Broadway musical "The Drowsy Chaperone" and Australian Western epic "The Drowner," which Mel Gibson was linked to at one stage, along with Liam Neeson, Emily Blunt and James McAvoy. More hypothetically, he's also got two E.L. Doctorow adaptations, "Homer & Langley" and a miniseries adaptation of the Civil War tale "The March," that he'd like to get to, although neither seem to be in active development.
Still, good to see a filmmaker who's somewhat underrated become so busy even as he gets into his eighth decade. Those of us not in the Southern Hemisphere will get a chance to see how "The Eye Of The Storm" turned out when it hits U.S. theaters on September 7th.