Collette turning ‘Japanese’ in Oz pic

Thesp to play geologist for helmer Brooks

This article was corrected on Aug. 30, 2001.

SYDNEY — Toni Collette has signed to play the lead in “Japanese Story,” an A$5.7 million ($3 million) drama set in western Australia’s Pilbura desert for helmer Sue Brooks (“Road to Nihill”).

Thesp will play a geologist named Sandy opposite an as-yet-uncast Japanese businessman.

Pic will be Collette’s first Aussie lead role since she played a young woman obsessed with the Princess of Wales in 1997’s “Diana and Me,” which was derailed by the death of the real-life princess and bombed at the domestic BO when released.

“Japanese Story” is one of three titles bankrolled by government funding agency the Film Finance Corp. The others are “Blurred,” by debut Queensland helmer Evan Clarry, and “Take Away,” by Marc Gracie.

“Take Away,” a $2 million comedy about Italo and Greek owners of neighboring fish-and-chips shops, is penned by TV scribes Mark O’Toole and Dave O’Neil. Thesp Eric Bana (“Chopper”) was in talks to star, but Vince Colosimo is now likely to headline.

“Blurred” is a low-budget ensemble drama about the graduation antics during “schoolies’ week” at Queensland’s Gold Coast resort.

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