Universal’s romantic comedy “Ticket to Paradise” has halted filming in Australia due to a serious COVID outbreak in Queensland state, according to sources close to the movie. Because of the production pause, stars George Clooney and Julia Roberts have reportedly flown back to the United States.
“Ticket to Paradise” began production last year in multiple locations in Queensland and had been only two weeks from completion. Local reports say the film will be shut down for three months, but it’s not clear exactly when cameras will be able to roll again.
Directed by Ol Parker of “Mamma Mia” fame, “Ticket to Paradise” follows two divorced parents who rush to Bali to stop their teenage daughter from rushing into an unwise marriage, like their own. The production would make use of the Whitsunday Islands, standing in for Bali, while other locations would include Brisbane and the nearby Gold Coast.
Daily Mail Australia, which first reported the story, said Clooney had shaved off the beard that he had grown specially for the movie, departed on a flight for Honolulu and later caught another plane to California.
Universal had initially scheduled “Ticket to Paradise” to release in theaters on Sept. 30, 2022, but the studio has since moved it to Oct. 21, 2022. However, a three-month production halt could put the new date in doubt.
“Ticket to Paradise” is produced through the United Kingdom-based company Working Title, Roberts’ Red Om Films and Clooney’s Smokehouse Pictures. It is financed with support from the Australian Federal Government, Screen Queensland’s Production Attraction Strategy and the City of Gold Coast.
At the time the state financing and Queensland locations were announced in March last year, international film and TV production was booming in Australia. The country had been quick to put in place financial and workplace measures that allowed the screen production industry to get back on its feet. Strict border controls had also kept at bay the earlier variants of the coronavirus.
Now, however, the easily transmissible omicron variant has caused case numbers in Australia to spike upwards again, though the impact varies from state to state. Queensland reopened its internal borders in mid-December, a move which was followed by a sharp increase in infections.
Authorities on Tuesday reported the state’s highest level of fatalities in the omicron wave, with 16 deaths and nearly 16,000 new cases. But with high levels of vaccination (more than 88% of the state’s over-16 population have received two shots) local health officials are reporting low numbers of hospitalizations. Experts have forecasted the wave will peak by the end of January.