Lance Reynolds and Icon Films plan Vienna Boys’ Choir wartime drama

Lance Reynolds with Hugh Jackman.

Producer Lance Reynolds and Icon Films’ Bruce Davey plan to produce Stranded, a feature based on the true story of members of the Vienna Mozart Boys’ Choir who were forced to stay in Australia during World War 2.

The so-called 20 Nightingales of Vienna toured Australia in 1939. When war broke out they were declared enemy aliens after their final concert in Perth.

The choristers were “adopted” by Melbourne’s Archbishop Daniel Mannix, who made them the choir of his cathedral and arranged for their education and board and lodging with local families.

The choirmaster, Dr Georg Gruber, moved into the home of the visit’s sponsor, Henrietta Marsh, and became a noted member of the Melbourne and Sydney musical scene.

That changed abruptly in 1941 when military police went to the Brighton home and arrested Gruber, who was charged with having Nazi links and sent to Tatura internment camp in Victoria.

Gruber was deported to Austria in November 1947, where he was reunited with his wife and children and cleared by a de-Nazification tribunal. The 20 choristers remained in Australia.

Reynolds has obtained exclusive rights to the families, their estates and to Dr Gruber as well as exclusive archival footage.

He was told the story when he was a young actor in the Australian production of Hair by Stefan Hagg, one of the musical’s producers who was among those boys.

The screenplay is by newcomer Jack Savige. The project is out to directors and Reynolds has approached Chris Hemsworth through his US company to play Dr Gruber. Icon will handle worldwide sales.