Hoffman signed for NZ film project

MICHELLE DUFF
Last updated 11:02 01/06/2014

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The New Zealand producer of a $23 million film to begin shooting in Auckland was to make a film with Philip Seymour Hoffman before his death.

Film industry executive Richard Fletcher will co-produce The Wonder, a feature-film venture between New Zealand and Chinese production companies that will kick off in Auckland in September and is expected to employ up to 100 local actors and crew.

Karl Urban and young Hunger Games actress Willow Shields are in discussions to star in the teen fantasy, which follows a group of schoolkids transported by rainbow to China.

In a separate project last year, the New Zealand Film Commission funded Fletcher, Hoffman and producer Sara Murphy $15,000 from the Early Development Fund to make a film called Petrol Head.

Hoffman was found dead from a drug overdose in his New York apartment at age 46, on February 2. Fletcher said Hoffman had read the script for Petrol Head and was enthusiastic.

"Certainly he had read drafts, and he loved the film."

He had met with Hoffman's studio, Cooper's Town Productions, while in Cannes last week, and they were still keen on developing the project.

The screenplay for Petrol Head is the work of Auckland writer Rochelle Bright, and is set in Hamilton during the 1981 apartheid protests.

It follows Charlie, a 13-year-old punk, who has been abandoned by her parents and has to negotiate being a teenager against the tense background of the tour.

Fletcher is joint-managing director of Libertine Pictures, formed in 2013.

He has worked on films including Boy, Under the Mountain, In My Father's Den and also River Queen.

He is co-producer on The Wonder which qualifies for the recently upped New Zealand Screen Production Grant, which would see it recompensated for 40 per cent of its budget spend in this country.

The film has been described by scriptwriter Robert Sidaway as "a techno-fantasy story about troubled young people causing a major natural disaster by hurting nature and then having to put it right in a race against time".

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