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"I'm so happy that it's a sore point with you "  -Arnold Schwarzenegger to Andrew L. Urban on the argument about the date of the turn of the millennium
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Wednesday March 25, 2020 

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Andrew L. Urban flies, drives and treks up and down steep tracks to reach an exotic, deserted beach on Brampton Island to report on the making of Dear Claudia, starring Bryan Brown and Aleksandra Vujcic.

Cast against type as a romantic lead, Bryan Brown is spending four weeks on an isolated tropical beach with a beautiful woman less than half his age, reading other people’s mail and building sand castles. As the sun sets in an orange spectacle and stars begin to sparkle in the balmy evening, Brown grins; "There’s nothing I can complain about."

"You wouldn’t wanna whinge….look at all this." Bryan Brown

Yeah, well, that’s all very well for Bryan, but he’s handsome, famous, fit and forty something. Your reporter is still wheezing after a harrowing 15 minutes in a 4WD over a rocky so-called road in the bush, followed by a 20 minute hike up a steep track, down a steep track and across slippery rocks on the beach, to reach the location of the main unit.

The crew do this every day, so do the stars. Nobody complains; but then as Bryan Brown says over a dinner of green chicken curry, sitting on a cuple of logs, "You wouldn’t wanna whinge….look at all this." He flicks his eyes around. The horseshoe bay is lapping gently as the setting sun is drenching the designer-scattered clouds and sea in orange. A gentle breeze cools my fiery brow. The crew is assembled on assorted logs for dinner while in the make shift make up tent, Paul Pattison’s music system is currently working through a Jimmy Hendrix tape – and as incongruous as it may sound, it works. (Pattison won the Oscar for his make up in Braveheart.)

Brown, playing Walter the flying postman who has crash landed into the Pacific with his passenger Claudia, played by Aleksandra Vujcic (Broken English), points out that he has played romantic leads before, most importantly in his breakthrough role in A Town Like Alice.

"Bryan Brown was an obvious choice for a leading man, but not an obvious choice for Walter," director/writer Chris Cudlipp

But this time, it’s not just romantic, but comic romantic; and he’s loving it. Playing the 40-something Walter, Brown is the marquee name that will help raise the profile of this mid-budget romantic comedy that is the debut feature for young writer/director Chris Cudlipp.

"Bryan Brown was an obvious choice for a leading man, but not an obvious choice for Walter," says Cudlipp. "He’s cast against type and that’s exciting. He’s not playing a role he normally plays. It’s a comedy role and a character who’s not completely self confident – Bryan usually plays pretty up front characters. He’s just a had ball with it and it’s certainly something I’ve never seen before from him."

"I was captivated by her" Cudlipp on Aleksandra Vujcic

Cudlipp had tested a number of actresses before choosing Vujcic, who he had seen in Broken English. "I was captivated by her – everything she did in that was so edgy, and even though it was an intense drama, I just thought she had that energy that would work well in romantic comedy."

Cudlipp, a tv commercials director, began the screenplay just over three years ago, and approached a number of producers with it. Jim McElroy took an interest in it just about the time it won an Australian Writers Guild Award for Best Unproduced Script. It began with a simple observation one day as Cudlipp watched a postman empty a mailbox into a large bag. "It occurred to me there must be some amazing stories in that bag of letters. And I thought it was a lovely way to get into people’s hearts and souls, without having to explore their lives and filming them. It grew from there.

"Walter, through various circumstances, has got trapped into his life as a postman in a small country town," says Cudlipp, "and is at a stage where he’s saying to himself, well, this is as good as it gets. Claudia is an exact opposite so there is complete conflict in the characters."

"A lush setting with abundant wildlife both on land and under the water" on Brampton Island location

Enjoying his first feature film experience – notwithstanding the faster pace - Cudlipp is surrounded with an experienced crew, from DoP Brian Breheny (Priscilla) to make up artist Pattison and production designer Sally Campbell (Until the End of the World, High Tide, The Umbrella Woman).

Queensland producer Des Power, who is attached to the project with the assistance of the Pacific Film & Television Commission, helped find the location with location manager Mike McLean, after McElroy and Cudlipp had searched half the east coast of Australia and some of the pacific islands. Recently acquired by P&O resorts, Brampton Island, coincidentally, is targeting the romantic, honeymoon market, and offers a lush setting with abundant wildlife both on land and under the water. Notable are the fleet of frolicking lorikeets who’ll steal the sugar packs from your cappuccino saucer and the swarms of butterflies. Kangaroos line the airstrip and koalas can be seen on the western side. On the beach during the night shoot, the lights attracted curious sting rays to the water’s edge.

The location has added to the complexities of the shoot, but McElroy believes it’s worth it. The film is being shot in anamorphic to maximise the visual splendour.

For Australasian distribution, McElroy took the script to Mike Selwyn at UIP, "because I think UIP is the tops in the business, and Mike is a very sensitive distributor." Beyond Films acquired world sales rights, and the Film Finance Corporation rounded out the investment, after a modest private investment was secured.

The film will be completed by September, possibly in time for the Toronto Film Festival.

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Bryan Brown and Aleksandra Vujcic

Bryan Brown

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Aleksandra Vujcic

Aleksandra Vujcic with director/writer Chris Cudlipp

Chris Cudlipp

Brian Breheny - cinematographer

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