Producer Bill Leimbach has hired Morgan O’Neill to direct Banjo & Matilda, an action romance revolving around Banjo Paterson and his iconic bush ballad Waltzing Matilda.
O’Neill, who co-directed the surfing-set drama Drift with Ben Nott, takes over from Bruce Beresford.
“We split up amiably,” Beresford told IF. “Couldn't agree on the script and they wanted a younger, more hip director, I think.”
Beresford is in the US working on the post production of Bonnie & Clyde, a four-hour miniseries that stars Holliday Grainger and Emile Hirsch as the infamous bank-robbing couple Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. The mini co-stars Holly Hunter and William Hurt and will air in the US on A+E Networks History and Lifestyle.
Beresford had not formally committed to the Paterson project, telling this writer last year that he was awaiting a rewrite of the script.
Leimbach said O’Neill is finalising the screenplay with writer David Roach, with whom the producer collaborated on Beneath Hill 60. Roach also co-wrote and co-directed with Warwick Ross Red Obsession, the documentary which tells how the wines of Bordeaux have become the leitmotif of power, wealth and influence.
“Morgan's entry as director has ensured we get a movie that will resonate internationally as a compelling Western, with modern sensibilities and contemporary pacing – but not destroy the Australian icon that Waltzing Matilda has become,” said Leimbach.
“I think we have finally nailed it and are now gathering the elements together to be in production this time next year. The location of West Queensland is where the story originated and it’s where my Australian private equity investment will come from. The weather out there only allows a window of filming opportunity between April and September so I need to be in that window.”
The film will reveal the passionate love story between Paterson, Irish Australian Sarah and Scottish Australian Christina, who arrives in Queensland with an unforgettable tune in her head. Caught in the middle is the German who manages the property where they are stranded in the biggest wet season in 20 years.
The plot will also cast light on the violent events in the 1890s that led to the armed conflict behind the lyrics.