Ryan Corr, Anthony LaPaglia to star in Maziar Lahooti’s ‘Below’

Anthony LaPaglia and Ryan Corr.

Ladies in Black’s Ryan Corr and Anthony LaPaglia (Rake, Sunshine) will play the leads in refugee detention centre action-drama Below, director Maziar Lahooti’s debut feature.

Rounding out the cast are Phoenix Raei (The Heights, Romper Stomper), Alison Whyte (The Kettering Incident), Morgana O’Reilly (Wanted, Offspring) and Zenia Starr (Hotel Mumbai, The Merger).

Seville International has launched pre-sales on the film, which was adapted by Ian Wilding from his award-winning play of the same name, at the American Film Market.

Shooting is due to start in WA on January 19 produced by Nick Batzias of Good Thing Productions, Veronica Gleeson and Kate Neylon. Madman Entertainment will distribute in Australia.

The plot follows Corr as directionless dreamer Dougie, who is recruited to work in a detention centre for asylum seekers situated in a legal no man’s land. He discovers the centre is home to a ‘Fight Club’-style underground operation where detainees are blackmailed into fighting, which awakens his dormant conscience.

LaPaglia is Dougie’s stepfather Terry, who is the centre’s security manager. Whyte is Cheryl, Dougie’s mum, with Raie as Azad, a detainee and fighter. Zenia is Imogen, a social worker, with O’Reilly as Michelle, a detention centre guard who is Terry’s offsider.

Gleeson said of Phoenix: “He’s a great talent of Iranian heritage. His audition was very powerful.”

The DOP is Mick McDermott (Hounds of Love). Alison Telford and Megan Carpenter did the casting.

Below uses an original and offbeat approach to explore a hidden side of Australia’s approach to immigration – an issue that is unfortunately relevant in many parts of the world today,” said Seville International senior VP of sales Anick Poirier. “It is a timely story that many insist needs to be told.”

The Norwegian-born Lahooti, whose parents fled the Iranian revolution in 1979, met Batzias and Gleeson when he was on Screenwest’s Feature Navigator directors’ program in 2014. Gleeson had optioned Wilding’s play, which takes place in a mining camp, and Lahooti and Wilding decided to change the setting.

The film is funded by Screen Australia, the MIFF Premiere Fund and Screenwest’s West Coast Visions.