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Old and New Hollywood on the Way to the Island 30 January 2008

Hollywood old and new will be lining up in the Island’s first two films of 2008. Hollywood legend Burt Reynolds and the star of Disney’s High School Musical, Zac Efron will both be spending close to a month on the Island from early February.

Burt Reynolds will play the lead role in a Bunch of Amateurs – playing the insecure, difficult and demanding Jefferson Steel. As an ageing Hollywood action hero, accustomed to the perks of the job, he is desperate to reinvigorate his waning career and is convinced by his hapless agent to accept a prestigious invitation to star in the British theatre, playing King Lear at Stratford. Unfortunately for him it turns out to be not Stratford-Upon-Avon but rather, Stratford St. John, a sleepy little village in Suffolk!

A heart-warming comedy in the vein of Waking Ned, A Bunch of Amateurs will start shooting on February 2nd in various Island locations. Joining the cast will be iconic British actors Imelda Staunton, Derek Jacobi and Samantha Bond and a host of thespians hoping to make Jefferson’s life hell!

Immediately after Bunch of Amateurs wraps – Me and Orson Welles, the working title of the Island’s second film this year, will show up at The Gaiety Theatre. Starring Zac Efron, the star of Disney’s massive hit High School Musical, the Hollywood spotlight will be firmly on the Island’s film industry. Me and Orson Welles will be Efron’s first independent film and is being produced entirely in-house by CinemaNX, the Island’s new production and financing entity.

" Me and Orson Welles is great news for the Island, made possible by everyone concerned pulling together;” said Industry Minister David Cretney. “To secure this film for The Island meant that, amongst other organisations, The Manx Operatic Society had to postpone their production of Disco Inferno until April and The Young Farmers had to change venue and relocate their annual concert to the Villa Marina. The co-operation and willingness of both organisations to find a solution has been a real bonus to come out of this situation and we are very grateful to everyone concerned.” said Mr Cretney.

The film, set in The Mercury Theatre, New York during the 1930’s will require the Island’s biggest ever extras call. Well over 600 extras will be needed to fill The Gaiety in what promises to be a spectacular show-case for the theatre and will be a unique event in the life of the 100 year old Theatre.

“Attracting Me and Orson Welles to the Isle of Man is a most significant achievement for the Island’s film industry,” commented Hilary Dugdale of Isle of Man Film. “I think we have gone one better than The Libertine when we persuaded Johnny Depp to come here in 2004. Zac Efron is currently rated the most high-profile actor in the industry, with Richard Linklater directing and the supporting cast led by Claire Danes, this is actually a studio movie hitting the Island. This is big news for the British film industry, never mind the Manx!” said Ms Dugdale.

A Bunch of Amateurs and Me and Orson Welles look set to be the first of many productions heading to the Island this year. CinemaNX Chairman Steve Christian is confident that the slow down witnessed in 2007 has been overcome. “These two films are both significant wins for the Isle of Man. We wanted to start the new regime with high-profile projects that put the Island well and truly back in the industry spotlight. Already we have the next two projects lined up and negotiations on these two productions are at an advanced stage” said Christian.

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