Mel Gibson’s Icon Prods. has agreed to co-finance “On Our Selection,” an Australian film toplining Leo McKern and opera star Joan Sutherland.

“This is Mel contributing something back to the Australian film industry,” the film’s producer, Tony Buckley, said Monday.

Buckley, who’s been trying to make the pic for seven years, hailed Icon’s investment as brave in view of the quintessentially Australian subject.

Originally a play first staged in 1901, “On Our Selection” inspired two films — in 1920 and 1932 — about a family facing drought and disaster in the bush with typical Aussie humor.

Gibson knows the play well, having appeared in the Nimrod Theater’s 1980 production staged by George Whaley, early in his career.

Whaley, who is directing the film, and Buckley took the project to Gibson and Icon partner Bruce Davey last November.

Coincidentally, both Gibson and Davey were in London when Whaley screen-tested Sutherland (who’s making her film debut) and McKern (best known as TV’s “Rumpole of the Bailey”).

Icon is co-financing the $ A5.2 million ($ 3.6 million) film, which rolls in New South Wales in October, with the Australian Film Finance Corp. Buckley won’t disclose Icon’s contribution, but the Finance Corp. normally requires pre-sales or guarantees of at least 40% of the budget.

Icon will secure a U.S. deal and appoint a foreign sales agent in collaboration with the Film Corp. It would not be surprising if Icon dealt with Guy East’s Majestic Film Sales, which handled the production company‘s most recent pix, “The Man Without a Face” and “Airborne.”

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