Academy Award® nominated director Bruce Beresford (Breaker Morant, Puberty Blues, Tender Mercies, Driving Miss Daisy) will bring to life Madeleine St John’s 1993 best-selling Australian novel The Women in Black after securing major production investment funding from Screen Australia.
Produced by Allanah Zitserman and Samson Productions’ Sue Milliken, Ladies in Black will be Beresford’s first Australian film since Mao’s Last Dancer (2009) and will reunite him with long-time collaborator Milliken. Together, Beresford and Milliken wrote the screenplay for the film which he will also direct.
Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions has secured worldwide distribution rights, with the film also receiving major production investment from Screen Australia in association with Screen NSW, and support from The University of Sydney. Executive producers will include Morris Ruskin of The Ruskin Company.
“I’ve been obsessed with making a film of Madeleine St John’s The Women in Black (now Ladies in Black) since I first read the novel about 15 years ago, after being told about it by the writer Clive James, who had also been at Sydney University with Madeleine and myself,” Bruce Beresford said. “I was attracted by Madeleine’s wit, her light touch, her deft characterisations and her portrayal of a Sydney I knew so well – the Sydney of the 1950s and ‘60s – a time when the whole of Australia began to change because of the influx of European migrants (most of them escaping a depressed war-ruined Europe), who brought a whole range of talents (and invariably delicious cuisine) that created the successful multi-cultural society of the Australia we live in today.”
Ladies in Black is set in Sydney in the summer of 1959, against the backdrop of Australia’s cultural awakening, breakdown of class structures, and liberation of women. It tells the coming-of-age story of suburban schoolgirl Lisa, who while waiting for her final high school exam results with dreams of going to the University of Sydney, takes a summer job at a large department store. Here she works side-by-side with a group of saleswomen who open her eyes to a world beyond her sheltered existence, and foster her metamorphosis.
The novel has also been adapted into a stage musical, Ladies in Black, with music and lyrics by Tim Finn (Split Enz, Crowded House), and won Best New Australian Work at the 2016 Helpmann Awards.
Ladies in Black will shoot in Sydney and surrounds in 2017 with casting to be announced shortly.