Brit thesp to join Donovan, Strange in Bennett pic

SYDNEY — Major Aussie producer-distrib Beyond Films has inked British thesp Rufus Sewell (“Dark City,” “Cold Comfort Farm”) and American Martin Donovan (“The Opposite of Sex,” “Portrait of a Lady”) to topline Bill Bennett’s “In a Savage Land,” which will soon begin a seven-week shoot in the former Australian protectorate of Papua, New Guinea.

Bennett, who has been a hot property since the critical and commercial success of the low budget “Kiss or Kill,” has tapped Oz stage actress Maya Stange for the female lead, which was first slated for Nicole Kidman.

The A$12 million ($7.5 million) pic, which is said to be Oz’s highest budgeted indie ever, is a 1930s and 1940s adventure/love story about a young anthropological couple studying the sexual mores of Trobriand Islanders. The two get caught up in tribal wars and a Japanese invasion.

Beyond is global sales agent and Polygram will distrib in Oz. Other backers include the Film Finance Corp., Germany’s Hollywood Partners, the South Australian Film Corp. and Showtime Australia.

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