George Lazenby, Vince Colosimo, and Isabel Lucas.

Australian-born ex- James Bond actor George Lazenby has signed on to a new Cold War spy drama from Franco Di Chiera that is set to be pitched at the Marche du Film in Cannes this week.

Based on true events that occurred at the Bonegilla Migrant Reception and Training Centre in rural Victoria, Little Europe picks up in 1952 when a spy from ASIO is killed by a Russian assassin, who steals plans for Operation Hurricane, Britain’s first atomic bomb test due to take place in Australia.

ASIO’s director-general (Lazenby) recruits Italian-Australian cop, Joe Rossi (Vince Colosimo) to pose as a new arrival at the Bonegilla Migrant Camp with a mission to identify key communist agitators. As Joe struggles to assimilate and is ostracised by his fellow Italians who are suspicious of him, he enters the murky waters of espionage and grows uncertain of who the enemy really is, placing his assignment and himself in danger. The cast also includes Isabel Lucas as Cynthia, a Soviet spy camp administrator that manipulates the migrants to carry out communist activities.

The script was written by Di Chiera and Jason Agius, whose grandfather’s experience at Bonegilla inspired parts of the plot. Sabella Sugar, of Ultrafilms, is producing the project.

Little Europe is one of fifteen worldwide submissions selected by artificial intelligence platform to pitch at the Cannes Marche du Film.

Di Chiera told IF he approached Lazenby after being reminded of his presence in front of the camera on separate occasions.

“Our memories of him were jolted with the release of the latest James Bond film because they brought out all the former James Bonds to attend the premieres in the UK and US,” he said.

“We thought it was fortuitous he was still working and coincidentally I was walking around our area in South Yarra and there was a big billboard for the Melbourne Gin Company, where he was the subject.

“I thought, ‘oh god I better reach out to him’ because I just seemed to be confronted with him everywhere and thought it must be a sign.

“The wonderful thing is it’s a bit of a play on the idea that from 007 he got promoted to ASIO.”

Di Chiera is hoping to finish principal photography on the project before Christmas, depending on financing.

Of the five-week shoot that is being planned, he said four would be set around the camp, which offered a “pressure cooker” environment.

“I’m interested in (US director) Sidney Lumet’s films as a reference because he often had characters that were stuck in really oppressive and claustrophobic environments, where people’s values get blurred and there are questions over who really is the enemy in this world,” he said.

Di Chiera and Sabella are presently in discussions with distributors about the film.

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