Hershey goes Beyond ‘Passion’

She'll star opposite Aussie thesp in biopic

SYDNEY — Aussie producer-distrib Beyond Films has inked Oscar-nominated actress Barbara Hershey (“The Portrait of a Lady”) to star opposite Aussie thesp Richard Roxburgh in “Passion,” a biopic about eccentric Oz pianist-composer Percy Grainger.

Production starts in late April with shoots in Oz and London for global sales agent Beyond, Oz distrib Becker’s REP, pay net MovieVision and the U.K.’s Channel 4 under helmer Peter Duncan (“Children of the Revolution”) and producer Matt Carroll (“Breaker Morant”).

Grainger’s story is said to have eluded 20 auteurs, including British helmer Ken Russell. Most famous for “Danny Boy,” Grainger grew up in Melbourne in the late 19th century under the strict tutelage of his mother, Rose, with whom he traveled to London and became the toast of society. As World War I loomed and speculation of an incestuous relationship between them grew, Percy and Rose fled to America, where Rose, suffering syphilis-induced madness, committed suicide. In 1928, Percy married Ella Strom, the image of his mother, onstage at the Hollywood Bowl.

Hershey’s inking is the latest in a string of moves by Beyond, which has committed to a slate of pics worth A$80 million ($54 million) between now and Cannes 1999, to ramp up its film biz. Initiatives also include signing major Oz thesp Bryan Brown (also inked to topline “Dear Claudia”) and Heath Ledger (“Ten Things I Hate About You”) to star in contemporary love story “Two Hands,” the feature debut of award-winning short-filmmaker Gregor Jordon; and signing acclaimed young director Emma-Kate Croghan (“Love and Other Catastrophes”) to direct her second feature, “Strange Planet,” which follows a year in the life of six urbanites and was written by Croghan and Stavros Kazantzidis.

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