Universal has signed on for Australian and UK rights to director PJ Hogan’s comedy Mental which, like his 1994 debut film Muriel’s Wedding, has Toni Collette in the lead role.

Collette plays Shaz, a nanny hired to look after five sisters after their mother is committed to a mental hospital by her politician husband.

Australians interested in playing the girls, aged 11 to 16 year of age, are being encouraged to audition themselves online after reading a description of the characters, downloading a script, recording themselves and uploading it to www.mentalmoviecasting.com.

“His approach is to leave no stone unturned,” said Todd Fellman about the casting. “Muriel’s Wedding was a huge success around the world and launched both his and Collette’s careers. This is not a sequel but it taps into the same sensibility … although PJ’s filmmaking has evolved a long way since then.”

Fellman is producing with Hogan’s wife Jocelyn Moorhouse, Jerry Zucker and his wife Janet Zucker. Zucker was one of the producers on the US comedy/romance My Best Friend’s Wedding, the film Hogan made immediately after Muriel’s Wedding. Hogan’s credits since include the US films Unconditional Love, Peter Pan, which was filmed in Australia and most recently Confessions Of A Shopaholic.

Screen Australia announced yesterday that it was supporting Mental, which is being sold internationally by Arclight, and the state film agencies Screen NSW and Screen Queensland are also on board.

The rest of the budget comes from foreign presales or is covered by the producer offset, a tax rebate available for Australian films. IFS Capital in Singapore and City National Bank in the US are providing loans.

Cameras roll on July 25 in south-east Queensland/northern New South Wales, the area in which Hogan grew up.

Cinematographer John McAlpine and editor Jill Billock are among the high-profile heads of department.