Our city passes the Hollywood screen test
Leave the Opera House out of shot and Sydney has acquired the "non-specific" look much sought after by Hollywood film-makers, according to the co-producer of the most expensive movie to be made in Australia.
Speaking from Los Angeles yesterday about filming next month of The Matrix - a science-fiction adventure starring Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne - Sydney co-producer Andrew Mason said the increased density and diversity of the city's architecture made it ideal for film-makers seeking a generic late 20th century city.
"It's got a bunch of interesting buildings with different shapes and there's good geography," Mason said. "It's not hard to use it as a non-specific city, assuming you don't show the Opera House."
Reeves, 33, arrived in Sydney yesterday. He and his grunge band, Dogstar, played several concerts here in 1995.
Originally scheduled to be made in Queensland studios, The Matrix will now be shot in Sydney's streets, rooftops, alleyways and railway stations.
The film is set in the 22nd century but its main characters believed they were living in the present day, Mason said.
But don't expect to recognise Sydney in the film.
"It's just a late-20th century city," said Mason. "It's not a specific city and it's not passing for New York or Chicago."
The 18-week shoot is expected to begin in mid-March, featuring Hugo Weaving as the film's bad guy, Agent Smith. It will be directed by brothers Larry and Andy Wachowski and produced by Mason and Joel Silver.
Film-making expertise, competitive costs and a new willingness to embrace location filming enhanced Sydney's appeal, Mason said.
"Five years ago, the technical resources and perhaps even the depth of experience wasn't there to do this kind of picture," he said. "It certainly is now."
Mason, who produced another sci-fi spectacular, Dark City, at the Fox studios in Moore Park last year, said it was still uncertain if The Matrix would make use of the facility. He said the city had exhibited a new willingness to facilitate filming on its streets.
"We've had a great amount of co-operation from government bodies and various institutions," he said.
"Everyone has been very open, which is great because the city hasn't always been so enthusiastic about people shooting films."