Bruce Beresford ready to tee off with ‘The Place I Belong’

Bruce Beresford.

Bruce Beresford may have an instantly recognisable body of work, having helmed more than 30 features across a 50-year career, but that doesn’t make him immune to the challenges of getting projects made.

The director, who is known for titles such as Breaker Morant, Driving Miss Daisy, Puberty Blues, Double Jeopardy and Mao’s Last Dancer, always has a few films on the go so as to be prepared for the worst.

“You never know with these things,” he said.

“My wife said to me, ‘Oh, you’ve got three or four films, and what if they all come through at once and they all get the money?’ and I said, ‘That’s never happened ever’.

“I said it’s more likely that none of them will happen than the four of them will happen at once.”

One that does have momentum is The Place I Belong, a film on the life of Canadian golfer Moe Norman, that Beresford has signed on to direct.

Set to be filmed in Canada next year, the feature will follow the rise of the social misfit savant and self-taught amateur golfer, from caddie and bowling alley pinsetter to playing The Masters and being on the professional golf tour during the 1950s.

While his unnervingly straight drive and animated behaviour during rounds ensured his place in golf folklore, Norman’s life off the course was also a subject of fascination for many – he did not own a telephone and reportedly received multiple tickets for driving his Cadillac too slowly.

The project is 25 years in the making for David Carver, who will produce alongside Steve Krone, and also wrote the screenplay with Mark Bergen, Josh Schorr, and Todd Korgan, based on previous versions by Joshua Michael Stern, David Lee Miller, and Eric Adams.

He said he was “overwhelmed with appreciation” that Beresford was directing the film, due to his “skill with the period piece genre, particularly in transformational roles, and the simple fact that he makes very classy movies”

For Beresford, a self-confessed non-golfer, the appeal of the project lay in the script’s ability to balance Norman’s relationships with his sporting achievements.

“The script suddenly turned up from my agent about eight weeks ago. When my agent in California sends me various scripts, I usually just respond with ‘not for me’,” he said.

“But this one came in I thought it was good, so I responded straightaway. It’s a very good story. They’ve done a lot of work on the script and done a pretty good job.”

Canadian golfer Moe Norman.

Before flying to the fairways of Canada, Beresford is hoping to film in country NSW with opera-inspired feature Overture.

Formerly Capriccio (“Everyone thought Cappricio was a coffee so I changed the name”), the story follows an Australian who returns to his country roots from Europe, where he has been designing operas, to care for his dying mother, only to get tied up in other responsibilities, all while setting up a performance of Richard Strauss’ opera Capriccio.

While details of the project are still under wraps, the writer/director is working with producer Michael Bowen and has “put a good cast together”.

There is less positive news for those hoping to see Beresford directing an adaptation of David Williamson’s stage play Nearer the Gods, which details the life of Sir Isaac Newton, focusing on his later years, much of which was spent dedicated to theology, and predicting the end of the world and the second coming of Christ in the year 2060.

Having been in the process of casting the film in 2020, Beresford spent a year in England trying to generate interest by was unable to get off the ground, despite a “great script” from Williamson.

“I spent a year in England trying to get that moving but we failed,” Beresford said.

“Nobody wants to make a film about an old white man – well actually, a young white man who was a scientist. We couldn’t interest anyone, but I thought the script was wonderful.”

Beresford leaned into his own writing more during COVID, penning “three or four scripts” during lockdown.

They include a feature on Antonín Dvořák commissioned by two US producers that focuses on his time in New York during the 1890s. Titled The Bohemians, the film is hoped to shoot next year, but will have to wait until Beresford has finished The Place I Belong.

If there is one thing for certain, it’s that the 82-year-old remains as busy as ever, and has no intentions of slowing down.

“I think one of the reasons I’ve done more than 30 films is that there’s always been a few lined up with the thought that I’ll probably get to make one of them,” he said.

“I’ve got to keep working. I’ve got grandchildren to educate now. First, it was my children, now it’s my grandchildren.”