Jai Courtney, Celeste Barber, Deb Mailman lead cast of ‘Runt’

Jai Courtney and Celeste Barber (Image: Finlay MacKay)

Nine-year-old Lily La Torre and rescue dog Squid will star alongside the likes of Jai Courtney, Celeste Barber, Deborah Mailman, Matt Day and Jack Thompson in John Sheedy’s Runt, which will start production in WA next month.

Adapted from Craig Silvey’s 2022 book of the same name, the family feature follows 11-year-old Annie Shearer (La Torre) and her best friend, an adopted stray dog called Runt (Squid), who try to save their family farm in the fictional country town of Upson Downs by competing in the Agility Course Grand Championships at the prestigious Krumpets Dog Show in London. Annie lives on the struggling sheep farm with her brother Max, played by La Torre’s actual brother Jack, her parents Bryan (Courtney) and Susie (Barber), and Annie’s grandma Dolly (Genevieve Lemon).

Of the other cast, Mailman will play mentor Bernadette Box, Thompson the villainous Earl Robert-Barren, and Day the unscrupulous Fergus Fink, with Tom Budge rounding out the cast as Fink’s sidekick Simpkins.

Silvey is adapting his story for the screen, working with Jamie Hilton, who is producing for See Pictures.

Lily La Torre with Squid (Image: Court McAllister)

The project, which will film across Perth and the Wheatbelt town of York, was one of six features to share in the production funding announced by Screen Australia last month, with Screenwest, Lotterywest, and the WA Regional Screen Fund also providing major investment, and further financial support from the Australian Children’s Television Foundation, Birdbath, Screen NSW and Spectrum Entertainment.

Runt will be released in Australia and New Zealand through Studiocanal, which is also handling international sales.

Silvey said Runt was a timely reminder that “you don’t have to carry the weight of the world in your tool belt”.

Runt is a story that is defiant in its message of hope,” he said.

“It’s about kindness, generosity, resilience, and compassion, and it encourages its audience to live their true and better selves. There’s a lot of darkness in the world right now, and this film will be a big ray of sunshine.”

Sheedy, who previously directed a theatre adaptation Silvey’s novel Jasper Jones, said he was delighted to once again collaborate with the author.

“Together, we are crafting a feel-good movie that promises to take the audience on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, from belly laughs to heartfelt moments, all while exuding endless charm,” he said.