Levi Miller Jasper Jones
Cast: Levi Miller, Angourie Rice, Aaron McGrath, Kevin Long, Dan Wyllie, Matt Nable, Toni Collette, Hugo Weaving
Director: Rachel Perkins
Running Time: 101 minutes
Synopsis: Late on a hot summer night in 1969, Charlie Bucktin, a precocious and bookish boy of fourteen, is startled by an urgent knock on his bedroom window. It's Jasper Jones, an outcast in the small Western Australian mining town of Corrigan. Rebellious, mixed-race and solitary, Jasper is a distant figure of danger and intrigue for Charlie. So when Jasper begs for his help, Charlie steals into the night by his side, terrified but desperate to impress.
Jasper takes him to a secret glade where Charlie bears witness to something terrible.
A 16-year-old girl, Laura Wishart, hangs from a eucalypt tree. She was Jasper's girlfriend, his only friend, and now she is dead. Charlie immediately wants to contact the police but Jasper is adamant that they cannot, as he will be blamed because he is Aboriginal and explains that he already knows who is the killer; it's Mad Jack Lionel, the town recluse who is rumoured to have killed a woman several years ago. They hide the body, agreeing to keep it a secret and catch the real killer themselves. Charlie carries the secret like a brick in his belly, especially when in the company of Eliza Wishart, his unrequited love and younger sister of the missing girl. As the townsfolk of Corrigan, led by the town Sargent, search for Laura's body, getting closer to the river with each new day, Charlie struggles to contain what he knows and battles to keep a lid on his over enthusiastic best friend, the Vietnamese, cricket-lovin- Jeffrey.
Meanwhile, at home Charlie's tempestuous mother, Ruth, dishes out cruel discipline whilst his browbeaten father seems resigned to inaction. Charlie is alone. That is until there is a tapping at his window again. It's Jasper. That night after staking out Mad Jack's house, Jasper urges Charlie to break into find the evidence they need.
When the town Sargent finds and interrogates Jasper Jones, Charlie, determined to find out the truth and save his new friend, breaks into the house of Mad Jack Lionel for answers. Charlie discovers some interesting evidence for Jasper, who has escaped the clutches of local police and returns that night to Charlie's house, badly beaten.
In the town, things are beginning to look up after Jeffrey helps the local cricket team win against their rivals, but their new-found cheer is quickly stripped away after Jeffrey's family home is vandalised by some racist locals.
The night of the town's New Year Fair, Charlie and Jasper decide it is time to act and confront Mad Jack. What they find out is astonishing. Mad Jack is not the killer at all, but instead reveals a little-known secret about Jasper's parentage.
Charlie, determined to tell Eliza what happened to her sister, takes her to the secret glade but finds that Eliza already knows the truth. Holding a letter from her sister, Charlie and Jasper learn what happened to Laura. That her death was a suicide and her father had been molesting her for years. Jasper racked with anger and despair, dives into the river. When Jasper doesn't reappear from the water, Charlie dives in, pulling Jasper from the dark waters.
In that summer of 1969 Charlie solves a terrible mystery, defeats the local racists, faces the break up of his parents and falls head over heels in love as he discovers what it means to become truly courageous.
Release Date: March 2nd, 2017
About The Production
Films that capture the human condition in profound transition are some of my favourites. In considering our approach to adapting the novel Jasper Jones, which traverses the transformation from child to adult, we returned to classics like -Stand By Me' for inspiration. In that tradition our aim was to tell a classic tale, rather than reinvent cinema. With so many films that overdress in style or violence to distract from their shortfall in character and story, we opted for the old school approach; a great story and fine actors to give it life.
Our story came to us courtesy of writer Craig Silvey, whose involvement was a little unusual. Not only did he write the novel and the shooting script, he then turned up to set every day to support the creative process to its conclusion. Being an Aussie movie tight on money, he had to bunk down in my accommodation to do so. Having the writer literally in the next room and equally enthusiastic to endlessly dissect the film was the greatest asset. He also baked great banana muffins.
Our great cast came first with Levi Miller. He had received his big break in the US movie Pan and arrived on set a honed professional at age thirteen. Required to be in every scene of the film, he delivered a nuanced performance across the whole spectrum of the emotional scale as our lead -Charlie'. Aaron McGrath, who I had given his very first role to when he was just a boy, now a young man, became the soul of the film through his intuitive and wrenching performance as Jasper Jones. Hugo Weaving, in one take, delivered a highlight of the film, a meticulously drawn ten minute monologue, that left me speechless except to be able to say -cut' when he was complete. Toni Collette rescheduled her Hollywood commitments to come back home, because like thousands of others, she loved the book. Witnessing her work on set remains one of the great pleasures of my career.
The enthusiasm for the story of Jasper Jones, not only from movie stars like Toni Colette, but also from funders, politicians, and ordinary Australians, built great momentum for our work, particularly in the south west of Australia, where we made the film. It showed me how people stories mean things to people and how they will rally around a story they love. It is my hope that this film fulfills their belief in us, and more broadly, the purpose of stories, which in the words of our writer Craig Silvey, exist to promote empathy, to test preconceptions and to transform opinions. The audience will ultimately be the judge if we have succeeded in that quest.
Jasper Jones embodies the brutal collision between the romantic myths we conceive as a child and the ugly truths we discover as an adult. It's the moment when the childhood bubble bursts and we are suddenly confronted with the fundamental truth of things. What we choose to do in that moment can define who we become as an adult.
It is a story about bystanders. Its ambition is not to assert that racism is bad and bigots are villains, but to investigate why and how such toxic principals persist within a culture. It observes how these principles bleed through generations and questions why we are so resistant to change. It is also a story about the courage required to stand against the tide. To believe in what is moral, true and fair and to divorce yourself from socially inherited myths and traditions. And that's a very brave act. Just as it is a brave act to intervene, to put yourself in the way of danger on behalf of what you know is right. Real courage is to challenge preconceptions, dismantle lies, take a risk upon principle.
This is what our hero Charlie Bucktin learns, and what Jasper Jones already knows. On Charlie's journey, we witness an awakening in him that the township is yet to discover.
Jasper Jones was shot over a six-week period in Western Australia. Specifically, in the south-west town of Pemberton; a small town, in the heart of a forest, with a population of just over 1,000 persons.
Choosing Pemberton to portray the fictional town of Corrigan was an easy choice for the filmmakers. The town was built at the peak of the timber industry in the south-west region of Western Australia. The area is lush and green and although different to the hot desert town described in Silvey's novel, it offered the perfect package - an authentic period setting with a warm and generous spirit from the locals.
Since its construction, the town has remained almost untouched. Its original, distinct and unique timber houses, built between the 1920's and the 1950's still stand today, providing warm homes for the townsfolk. 'It's a town," says producer Vincent Sheehan, 'that, for a number of streets, looks exactly as it was in the 1960's. It's quite magical. It's a very particular, almost Twain-esque setting, completely different to the rest of Australia in that time period. It was perfect for the setting of Jasper Jones."
Once the 60-odd cast and crew arrived, excited whispers spread through the town that Hugo Weaving was now a frequent customer at the local Café Brasil. The Pemberton township embraced its involvement in the film; offering up homes, cars and even the people themselves. Many of the townsfolk were used as extras or background actors in the film.
The remote location, 323 KM from the state capital of Perth, helped to foster a new sense of community between the film set and the townsfolk. Cinematographer Mark Wareham says, 'When I look at scenes now, I can see my mate who worked at the local bottle shop, and the guy that ran the local store. I've got really fond memories of the warmth of the people there."
Instrumental to the telling of this iconic Australian story, was to find the right cast to fulfil the roles. Rachel Perkins collaborated closely with casting director Anousha Zarkesh to find the young actors. 'Casting is a jigsaw puzzle," says Rachel Perkins, 'And we knew that the character of Charlie was the centre of that puzzle and everything would fit around him." The character of Charlie had to embody the moment in life when you are still a child, but standing on the precipice of adulthood.
The director and producers faced a difficult challenge while trying to find the right actor for Charlie; there was a risk around the timeframe between casting and production where the actor could grow up too quickly, losing the innocent -boyishness' of Charlie.
When Levi Miller entered the room for a meeting with the director and producers, Rachel Perkins remembers the moment she knew he was perfect for the role, 'He just nailed it. He got the emotion, the fear, the trepidation and he had the youth. He demanded to be cast."
The next role to be cast was Jasper Jones. Rachel Perkins immediately knew she wanted Aaron McGrath, who she had previously worked with on the television program Redfern Now. 'Aaron McGrath has a warm screen presence. That's the thing about the character of Jasper, he appears as this young Aboriginal hooligan but actually he's a warm, intelligent and hard-doneby guy who is misrepresented by society. And that is Aaron McGrath in lots of ways." Casting the role of Jeffrey Lu proved to be harder than casting all other roles. Casting director Anousha Zarkesh had exhausted all the usual casting channels. Some fine young actors had auditioned, but none had nailed Jeffrey Lu. The producers moved onto what is commonly called -street casting'. They approached the Vietnamese community directly through schools, sports clubs and other organisations around Australia. After many months of searching, Anousha presented a tape of Kevin Long. 'He just was Jeffrey Lu." Says Rachel Perkins, 'His parents had come from Vietnam as migrants, he still had a slight accent, he spoke fluent Vietnamese, he was incredibly confident and positive in the way that Jeffrey Lu has to be growing up in that world. Kevin embodied that character."
Working with the young actors was an enjoyable experience for the adult cast members, says Hugo Weaving 'It was lovely working with Aaron and Levi. I don't often work with younger actors… It's quite lovely to work with actors who are young and full of life and energy, vibrancy and vitality. They're excited and they want to learn."
About Pemberton And Australia's South West:
Pemberton is located in Australia's South West, around 330 kilometers south of Perth. A former timber town that has retained its timber heritage, Pemberton is set in the heart of karri tree country and surrounded by the ancient forests of the Gloucester and Warren National Parks, green pastures, acres of rolling vineyards, waterfalls and crystal-clear streams. Thanks to its cool Mediterranean climate, Pemberton and surrounds offers a healthy wine scene and a diverse range of fresh produce.
Visitors can climb one of the former fire lookout trees, (Gloucester Tree, Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree and the Diamond Tree) including the world's tallest; paddle a canoe on the river or lakes; fish for trout; walk along a section of the Bibbulmun Track; take a four-wheel tour to the Yeagarup Dunes (the largest inland dune system in the Southern Hemisphere); and indulge in some of the region's wines and gourmet produce.
Home to one of Australia's youngest wine regions, Pemberton's first commercial winery was established in 1982. The area has more than 40 vineyards and almost 20 mostly family-owned wineries, many of which offer cellar door tastings and house beautiful restaurants serving fresh, local, gourmet food. The area is truly a remarkable food bowl – from producing some of the world's finest black truffles, to avocados, potatoes, cherries and hazelnuts, to the local freshwater delicacy marron – the rich, loam soil and cool Mediterranean climate produces some of the finest foods available.
Release Date: March 2nd, 2017