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Branagh hops onto ‘Rabbit-Proof’

Noyce to helm Oz Pilkington adaptation

SYDNEY — British actor, writer and helmer Kenneth Branagh has joined the cast of “Rabbit-Proof Fence,” director Phillip Noyce’s first Australian project since 1987’s Nicole Kidman starrer “Dead Calm.”

It starts shooting in late September in Adelaide.

Adapted from Doris Pilkington’s book by Christine Olsen, pic tells the true story of three Aboriginal girls forcibly taken from their Outback families in 1931 to be trained as domestic servants as part of an Oz government policy. They escape and embark on an epic journey to return home.

Joining a cast of newcomers, Branagh will play Western Australian chief protector of Aborigines A.O. Neville.

“The English-born Neville devised and administered a notorious scheme for controlling the state’s indigenous population,” Noyce said.

Co-financiers with government screen agency the Film Finance Corp. are Jeremy Thomas’ U.K.-based HanWay Films, the Premium Movie Partnership’s Showtime Australia and the South Australian Film Corp., while Antipode distribution goes to Ocean Pictures, which will subdistrib through Becker Entertainment’s REP.

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