Ethnicity, not an issue for Tomorrow: Beattie

Writer/director Stuart Beattie says he does not anticipate controversy over the ethnic identity of the invaders in his adaptation of the successful novel Tomorrow When the War Began, and he’s ready and willing to create a trilogy.

“I don’t anticipate it, but if people want to talk about it, they can. That’s what it’s for,” Beattie told Encore.

In the book series – which started with the first volume in 1993 – the invading enemy, their country or ethnicity, is never identified. Author John Marsden has deliberately avoided that question, leading to years of speculation, but in a recent participation on the ABC’s Q&A, he announced that the film adaptation would give the invaders “a definite ethnic identity”. Marsden could not escape a heated debate about Australia’s historical fear of invasion and the fictional work’s potential to “create xenophobia” and the politics associated to the topic.

According to Beattie, who also wrote the script for the film, no countries will be specified, but the ethnicity is just “logical”.

“I don’t want to be a hater of any country – and I don’t want the movie to be about that. If I named a country, it wouldn’t be that book; it would be something else entirely. What the book and the movie are about is these eight teenagers and what happens to them when their country is invaded, not who’s doing it or why.

“The ethnicity just makes common sense. If anyone is going to invade Australia, it’s not going to be Europe, and it’s not going to be Africa. It won’t be Antarctica or New Zealand. It’s going to be someone in Asia. It’s the logical thing. It’s common sense enough for an audience to say ‘ok, that’s who it would be’,” he explained.

Beattie is currently putting the finishing touches on the film, which he’s due to deliver by the end of June for its September 2 release.

“We’re almost 90 percent done. We’re on track, on schedule, on budget, so it’s all going fine, but no matter how well you plan, you always cram it in the end, so it’s a frantic last 10 percent,” said Beattie.

Tomorrow is based on the first of seven books, and has generated a great interest from young audiences in Australia and overseas. It has the potential to become Australia’s first blockbuster – and franchise – aimed at that market.

Omnilab Media – through its production arm Ambience Entertainment – is the main investor in the $25m film, and although the future of the brand depends on the box office success of the first film, Beattie says he’d be willing to commit to a potential series.

“Absolutely. It’s been so much fun, and such a great experience… If they let us do 2 and 3, we’d probably do them together because it would be cheaper and the cast wouldn’t be two years older.

“If they did let us do sequels, I’d absolutely jump in,” said Beattie.

Tomorrow is Beattie’s directorial debut, after a successful writing career in Hollywood, including titles such as Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Collateral and G.I.Joe: the Rise of Cobra.

“I started to feel in the last couple of years that I could direct. I’d been looking for an Australian project to make, because I wanted it to be Australian, but the kind of movies that I want to make are very hard to find.

“In Hollywood they buy titles like Pirates or G.I.Joe, but in Australia it’s very hard to find that, and Tomorrow was a rare combination of great story, great characters and a title that is very well-known. The action/adventure genre is very hard do to here because we don’t have a Hollywood studio machine set up here to finance them, so it’s hard to get them made. I don’t think it’s a matter of the attitude of Australian filmmakers, but a matter of opportunity. We were fortunate to get this one made right,” he said.


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