A lone security guard patrols the entrance to the now-vacated set site.
A lone security guard patrols the entrance to the now-vacated set site.

Script woes dash Bello hopes

By UTE SCHULENBERG

GARY Conlan is not sure how he is going to survive the next 10 weeks.

The owner of Jelga River Retreat, on the outskirts of Bellingen, has been politely refusing bookings for months, with his accommodation booked out by the cast and crew of Eucalyptus.

Yesterday, however, his rooms were vacated as the film's lead actors, Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman, along with writer/director Jocelyn Moorhouse and producer Uberto

Pasolini, made the shock decision to postpone filming.

"Everybody is very upset," Mr Conlan said.

"We'll have to start from scratch. We had even booked out Easter, which is one of our busiest times. We were looking forward to that income for the next 10 weeks."

Rumours began to spread early yesterday morning that Crowe and Moorhouse had met and agreed to postpone shooting, with the film's location manager, Peter Lawless, confirming at 1pm what many had already heard whispered.

"This is devastating for many locals," he said.

"But with more preparation we'll have not only a good movie but a great one."

This was small comfort to the 15 households who had vacated their premises to make way for stars, crew and production staff.

Not to mention the 13 accommodation houses in town who had been turning away bookings since December, and the 90 people now out of work.

One Bellingen homeowner was devastated.

"I've put myself in debt over this," she said.

"This is just terrible. How can they do that. So many people have made such huge changes to their lives."

Bellingen Shire's mayor, Cr Mark Troy, said the decision was 'disappointing', especially considering all the hype surrounding the movie.

He said the council's planning department had been asked to keep the approvals for the set out at Gleniffer in place.

"They say the film is likely to now go ahead in spring, 2005, for completion at the end of the year and that new actors will probably need to be sourced in some cases," he said.

But how welcome will the show be third time around?

One local who had been working in pre-production was not so pessimistic. He believed everything would go ahead eventually.

"For a lot of us it has been fantastic," he said.

Another now-unemployed worker, a long-time player in the movie world, said he had never worked on something with so much indecision for so long.

"This is not what I thought it was. This is not a small Australian movie, this is being directed from the studios in LA," he said.

"The reality is that it affects the small people in the town more than it affects people who are working in the movie industry.

"Film is unpredictable. You play hard ball and sometimes you win and sometimes you don't."



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