Fencing with past ‘Stuff’

Noyce preps next project; Luke to play lead

JOHANNESBURG — No stranger to making films that probe uncomfortable pasts, Australian director Philip Noyce (“Rabbit Proof Fence,” “The Quiet American”) has spent several months in South Africa this year preparing for his new project, “Hot Stuff,” the true story of African National Congress freedom fighter Patrick Chamusso.

Script is by Shawn Slovo, a daughter of the protag’s friend, who was honoring an appeal from 20 years ago by her late father, prominent ANC activist Joe Slovo.

The elder Slovo, who died of cancer in 1995 after having served in the Cabinet of the first ANC government elected in 1994, told his daughters — Shawn, Gillian and Robyn — the story of his comrade, Chamusso, during the early 1980s, saying that if they ever wanted to write a story about the era, “Patrick’s was the story to tell”.

Chamusso, who was sentenced to 24 years on Robben Island, was a saboteur in the ANC’s military arm, Umkhonto we Sizwe, who became legendary for his daring solo attacks. He was released from prison in 1991 and has met with Noyce.

Shawn Slovo wrote her first screenplay, “A World Apart,” a feature based on the life of her activist mother, Ruth First, who was killed by an apartheid government parcel bomb in Mozambique in 1982.

Working Title’s “Hot Stuff” production is set to start filming in August in the coal-mining town of Secunda, where Chamusso lived and worked; it will also lense in Johannesburg, Cape Town and in the neighboring countries of Mozambique and Swaziland, both of which provided safe havens for ANC freedom fighters during their struggle against the apartheid government.

Noyce told the Sunday Times that he had spent time in South Africa this year to help him come to an understanding of the culture, the people and the history and to talk personally with Chamusso and absorb his story and personality.

He said the film would not concentrate on the war aspect, but rather on a “man who feels” and what drove an ordinary, peace-loving person to follow a path of violence.

Derek Luke (“Antwone Fisher”) will play Chamusso and is due to visit South Africa in the next several weeks to prepare. South African actress Bonnie Mbuli (“Drum”) plays the role of his wife. Tim Robbins (“Mystic River”) is in negotiations to play an apartheid government policeman.

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