Richard E. Grant, who was born in Swaziland and spent his early years in South Africa, has finally returned home to star in the $2m production of The Story Of An African Farm.
The film is currently shooting for six weeks in South Africa's dry and barren semi-desert Karoo 300kms north of Cape Town.
Based on the classic 1883 South African novel by Olive Schreiner, the film is a rites-of-passage tale. It tells the story of three children who discover the wiles, cruelty and foolishness of adults when the sinister Bonaparte Blenkins (Grant) arrives at their farm claiming to be related to the Duke of Wellington and Queen Victoria, all the while trying to get his hands on the land. The kids and an oddball ostrich foil his attempts.
Grant has been on the lookout for a South African themed project for some time. At one point he was attached to star in Jason Xenopolous's Tokyo Festival winner Promised Land when it was due to be directed by Darrell James Roodt a decade ago.
Grant was in South Africa a few years ago to film Antoine De Caunes' Monsieur N, but this is the first time he has returned to appear in a locally financed, produced and directed film that is a South African story. He stars alongside a fully South African cast including newcomers Anneke Wiedemann and Luke Gallant playing two of the children.
The film is directed by veteran South African filmmaker David Lister who, apart from making ground-breaking South African films such as Soweto Green, directed over eight features for Peakviewing during their tenure in the country.
Lister says Grant has brought no Hollywood airs and graces to the production, "He's really part of the team, one of the least affected stars I've ever dealt with. I think it's because he's finally home."
First-time producer Bonnie Rodini, who co-wrote the screenplay with Thandi Brewer, spent 12 years trying to get the project off the ground working on the first drafts with New York based screenwriter James Dearden.
Rodini had managed to raise 40% of the budget locally but struggled to complete the budget. When Grant committed to the project a week after reading the script, the rest of the finance fell into place. "We're trying to make a South African equivalent of Hope And Glory or Stand By Me, a heart-wrenching but joyous drama from a child's point of view," she says.
The $2m production is co-financed by The South African Industrial corporation (IDC) together with Rand Merchant Bank (both becoming major financial players in the local industry) the National Film and Video Foundation and several facility companies including Sasani. Vine International Pictures are handling worldwide sales.