Naomi Watts will be returning to Australia in June to star alongside Geoffrey Rush, Rachel Griffith and Heath Ledger in director Gregor Jordan's Ned Kelly, which went into production today (April 29).

The news highlights the benefits now flowing to Australian films as a result of the recent international attention focussed on a raft of local actors, including Watts' in Mullholland Drive.

The Irish Catholic Ned Kelly, played by Ledger, was a bushranger, notorious for his run-ins with the police in the 1880s. The image of him in metal armour, including a headpiece, was part of the opening of the Olympic Games.

Orlando Bloom and newcomers Laurence Kinlan from Dublin and Philip Barantini from the UK, play members of his gang. Peter Phelps, who last night won one of the major acting awards at Australia's Logie Awards for television, Russell Dykstra and the veteran Charles "Bud" Tingwell are also in the cast.

Nelson Woss and Lynda House are producing Ned Kelly under the Endymion Films banner. It is the first film to be made under the Australian subsidiary of Working Title Films and the executive producers are Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner and Sydney-based Tim White. John Michael McDonagh adapted the film from the Robert Drewe book Our Sunshine and the film is to be distributed worldwide by Universal Pictures.

In other Working Title news, Lisa Chatfield has now relocated from New Zealand to join the Australian office. Her debut feature Scarfies was hugely successful in her native country.