For most Australian movies, having an Oscar-winning actor is something to boast about. But for Storm Boy, it's become something of a cloud.
When the producers announced in May 2017 their cast for the remake of the much-loved family movie, based on Colin Thiele's novel and originally released in 1976, landing Geoffrey Rush looked like a coup. But when sexual harassment allegations against the actor surfaced in August that year, it started to look more like a liability.
Still, with plenty of time until the film’s release, the filmmakers might have hoped the focus would shift elsewhere. But Rush's defamation suit against The Daily Telegraph – judgment of which is likely to be handed down soon – and a second allegation of inappropriate behaviour made by actress Yael Stone in December 2018 ensured Rush's name stayed in the public eye – for all the wrong reasons.
Finn Little in Storm Boy.Credit:Matt Nettheim
However, she is of the view that the Rush allegations, which he strenuously denies, need not weigh heavily against the film.
"If it was a movie where he was the hero or the headline it would, or if it was about a relationship between a man and a woman it would. But because it's an ensemble cast and he's not the star of it, I don't necessarily think it will have a big impact."
But one film industry executive is not so sure. "I'm really hopeful for the film and hope it will reach its potential, but I do harbour fears it will be affected negatively to some small degree."
Asked at the film's Sydney premiere if he thought Rush's presence in the film would deter potential viewers, director Shawn Seet said: "I don't think so. Geoffrey's work in it is beautiful, it's just exceptional. And I think the film stands on its own."
Producer Michael Boughen spent last week on a roadshow tour of the film in South Australia, where it was shot, and he claimed audience responses have been positive.
But like others we spoke to, he did not wish to comment on the Rush factor. "Entrusted with the re-telling of such an iconic story, we would like Storm Boy to stand on its own merits, leaving our audiences to respond," he said.
Geoffrey Rush as Mike Kingley and Morgana Davies as his granddaughter Madeline.Credit:Matt Nettheim/Sony
It's important to note that the only legal action stemming from the allegations has been initiated by Rush himself.
As it happens, the new Storm Boy is a delightful family movie. Rush is in maybe a quarter of the film, playing the elder Mike looking back on his days as the so-called Storm Boy, who forms a special bond with the pelican Mr Percival, on a remote beach far from the travails of the modern world.
Trevor Jamieson as Fingerbone Bill, Finn Little as Storm Boy and Jai Courtney as Hideaway Tom in Storm Boy.Credit:Matt Nettheim
In the film's trailer you hear Rush say: "I once believed in things, things that were special to me."
Now, as the film prepares to take wing, the filmmakers could be forgiven if they too were inclined to look wistfully back upon simpler times.
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