Anthony LaPaglia, Guy Pearce and Kerry Fox are to star alongside upcoming Australian pair Ryan Corr and Craig Stott when Candy director Neil Armfield begins filming Holding The Man in Melbourne next week.

Corr and Stott play Timothy Conigrave and John Caleo in this adaptation of a real-life boy-boy love story, while the other three – and also Camilla Ah Kin – play their parents.

“We would have done 400 auditions in six months for those two roles,” producer Kylie du Fresne told ScreenDaily.

It was a challenge in part because the actors are aged 16 and at school at the beginning of the film and in their 30s with a lot of life experience by the end. Sparks also had to fly between them. The creative team were open to casting four people but it was not their ideal.

Corr had to be released from the cast of Cyrano de Bergerac by the Sydney Theatre Company in order to accept the role and is in Russell Crowe’s upcoming The Water Diviner and Wolf Creek 2. Stott had to return from Los Angeles.

The schedule is somewhat unorthodox in that there will be a seven-week break in order for Stott to lose a lot of weight – he gets very ill in the story. Some scenes include such iconic Sydney places as Bondi Beach and Oxford Street, and there will be a couple of days in filming on the Italian island of Lipari but most of the filming will take place in Melbourne.

Holding The Man has already secured a significant following via Conigrave’s popular memoir and scriptwriter Tommy Murphy’s play of the same name, which has been staged across the world.

“Part of the success of the play and the book is that it is very funny in its honesty,” said Du Fresne, a partner in the production company Goalpost Pictures Australia and one of the producers on the big local hit The Sapphires, which premiered in Cannes.

“It is a celebration of soul mates and the joy of first love and the monumental nature of everything that goes with that, and then it turns into a tragedy of Romeo and Juliet proportions.”

Holding The Man is being distributed in Australia and New Zealand by Transmission and Goalpost Film in the UK, is handling international sales.

Finance is provided by Screen Australia, the state agencies Film Victoria and Screen NSW and Sydney business person Cameron Huang, an “angel investor” who was so affected by the play seven years ago that he offered to help Murphy in any way he could to make it into a film.