Michael Caton and Jacki Weaver are attached to star in Last Cab, a comedy-drama about a dying man’s final journey.

The film is based on Reg Cribb play’s Last Cab to Darwin, which in turn was inspired by the cases of Max Bell and Bob Dent.

Bell was a terminally ill cab driver who drove 3,000 km from his home in Broken Hill to Darwin in the early 1990s in hopes of taking advantage of the Northern Territory's voluntary euthanasia laws. Dent was the first Australian to die from a legal, voluntary lethal injection in the Northern Territory in 1996.

Director Jeremy Sims aims to start shooting on location next March/April, with Greg Duffy as the producer, if the project succeeds in gaining investment from Screen Australia at its October board meeting.

Caton will play a character named Rex, who is an amalgam of Bell and Dent. Ningali Lawford has been cast as Polly, an Aboriginal woman who is Rex’s next door neighbour and occasional lover, a role written specifically for her.

Weaver is set to play a doctor who ministers to Rex. The filmmakers are in discussions with Bridesmaids star Rebel Wilson for the role of an English backpacker nurse.

Wilson created and stars in Super Fun Night, a half-hour comedy series about three nerdy twentysomething women on a quest to have fun every Friday night, which premieres in the US on CBS on October 2.

The play Last Cab to Darwin was staged in 2003 by Sims’ Porch Chop Productions in Perth and at the Sydney Opera House, featuring Barry Otto, Justine Saunders and Weaver.

The Sydney Morning Herald’s Bryce Hallett hailed the play as a “big-hearted, sprawling, dry-humoured, unwieldy saga which splendidly evokes the landscape of knotted trees, furnace sunsets and the dual feeling of liberation and terror on the journey from Broken Hill to Darwin.”

Cribb and Sims have written the screenplay, which differs markedly from the play. Cribb was nominated for an AFI award for his screenplay Last Train to Freo, which Sims directed and Duffy produced.

Screen Australia funded the development of the project. Icon is attached as the Australian distributor and the international rights will be handled by Paris-based Films Distribution.

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  1. The problem with this “big hearted, sprawling, dry humoured, unwieldy saga” is that it trashes and denigrates the story of Max and what he went through to get to Darwin, to fail, and then to die in miserable circumstances in Broken Hill hospital.
    You can’t have if both ways: if you sell the story as being “based on Max Bell”, (and now Bob Dent) at least do their memory, and their families, the respect of getting it right. And, as for “tackling euthanasia with humour”, try telling that to Max, I doubt he’d have sen the joke! Why not make a film on the assassination of Martin Luther King, and then say you’re “tackling racism with humour”?

  2. This is not a subject for humour especially for those who have tried and failed< I agree with Philip. Most people will not have heard of Max Bell, I hadn't and his story sounds pretty dreadful NOT a humorous idea at all.

  3. Phillip, we’ve had this discussion before. Several times. You would like a fight with us but we won’t go there. You misquote us to in order to set up a straw man to knock down. The story was ‘inspired’ by what we read and saw of those two in print and current affairs at the time, not ‘based’. Max didn’t have a lover he missed, or pick up an young aboriginal footballer, or a British backpacker on the way. This is not his story. Our central Character’s name is Rex

    Our story is a meditation on the many issues that were raised as we explored the circumstances of 1996. You can’t own this subject matter, much as you would like to. If you were less possessive you might see it as an opportunity to engage in the debate to a new and wide audience.

    We admire your reputation as a fighter and I am personally closely aligned with your stance on Euthanasia. But you must let all sides speak in such an important debate, or you end up sounding like the narrow minded people you claim to be fighting.

    As for humour and serious subjects, you need to broaden your experience – the best humour resides in the darkest of places – that has been true since the Greeks. Maybe watch a little Mel Brooks. Last Cab is in any case a Drama. An invention of Reg and mine that seeks to bring a subject you are close to into the public gaze so that it can be looked at and thought about afresh in Australia.

    We are not telling Max’s story. You have to understand that and move on. If you’d like to speak further, we would welcome the chance. Yours, JS

  4. Hi Jeremy, I am one of many who really look forward to seeing your film, as long as we are still batting. Or is that a little…? Regards Kate.

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