Screen Australia also backs The Grandmothers, 2:22, Patrick and skateboarding documentary.

The Mule, a black comedy about a man who refuses to use the toilet for 28 days after ingesting illegal drugs, co-written and to star Saw co-creator Leigh Whannell [pictured], is one of six films that have just been backed by Screen Australia.

The other five are: a French-Australian co-production with the working title The Grandmothers and starring Naomi Watts; Zak Hilditch’s apocalyptic sci-fi thriller These Final Hours; the thriller 2:22 starring Armie Hammer from The Social Network; Mark Hartley’s remake of Richard Franklin’s 1978 film Patrick; and a documentary about the one-time skateboarding champions Tas and Ben Pappas.

Producer Paul Clarke told ScreenDaily that The Mule will go into production in Melbourne mid next year – and that a few days of filming will also occur in Bangkok.

Angus Sampson, who wrote the script of The Mule with Whannell and starred alongside him in Insidious, will play the title role, which is loosely based on a real-life character who took the same action of holding on in 1983. Readers wondering how, should think of the first half of the saying: “If you don’t eat you don’t shit, and if you don’t shit you die.”

Hopscotch will release the film in Australia and Hopscotch shareholder, eOne, will handle international sales.

Clarke and The Mule’s executive producer Bruce Kane gave Whannell and Sampson their first jobs in the industry about 15 years ago on a television show for teenagers titled Recovery. Tony Mahony, who will direct The Mule, also met the pair back then.

“We paid Leigh $10 an hour to drag cables and he was so funny and feisty that we gave him the job of movie reviewer,” said Clarke, who passed on Saw, in part because it was not his genre.

“It was a sting in the tale and it would be lying to say otherwise,” he said of the subsequent success of the horror franchise, “but I was really happy for Leigh and felt wonderfully proud of him.”

Clarke has a reputation for examining Australian culture in an irreverent, quirky way in such social history and documentary series as Long Way To The Top: Stories Of Australian Rock, Bombora: The Story Of Australian Surfing and, most recently, Wide Open Road.

He said The Mule will tap into this style: “It will have a swagger to it and be like Chopper or an Australian version of Trainspotting or Fargo.

With television drama and children’s television series added, Screen Australia invested $17.3m (A$17m) in 14 projects in all and this will trigger $98.7m (A$97m) worth of production. The films are:

Production co: Lightstream Pictures Pty Ltd

Producer: Jackie O’Sullivan
Executive producers: Garrett Kelleher, Bruce Davey, Paul Brooks, Lawrence Inglee
Co-writer/director/co-producer: Paul Currie
Co-writer: Todd Stein
International sales: Gold Circle Films (head distributor), Lionsgate International (sub-distributor)
Australian distributor: Icon Productions
Synopsis: Dylan Boyd’s life as an air traffic controller is permanently derailed when an ominous pattern of events begins to permeate his life, funnelling him into Grand Central Station every day at 2.22pm. When he falls for a beautiful woman, it seems their lives were meant to intertwine long ago. With a grim fate looming, Dylan must solve the riddle of 2.22 to preserve a love that’s second chance has finally come.

Production companies: Hopscotch Features, Ciné-@, Mon Voisin Productions, Gaumont, France 2 Cinéma
Andrew Mason, Philippe Carcassonne, Michel Feller, Dominique Besnehard, Francis Boespflug
Writer: Christopher Hampton
Director: Anne Fontaine
International sales: Gaumont
Australian distributor: Hopscotch/eOne
Synopsis: A beautiful and heart-wrenching story of two lifelong friends who fall in love with each other’s teenage sons. Anerotic tale of misguided love and a celebration of the enduring nature of female friendship.

Production co: The Mule Development Co.
Paul Clarke
Writer/co-producers: Leigh Whannell, Angus Sampson
Executive producer: Bruce Kane
Director: Tony Mahony
International sales: eOne
Australian distributor: Hopscotch
Synopsis: Ray Jenkins, an unlikely drug mule from Sunshine, Victoria, takes on all the authority figures in his life using the only option within his control – holding on!

Producton co: Pank & Martin
: George Pank, Eddie Martin, James Gay-Rees
Executive producers: Jude Troy, Rachel Okine, Paul McGowan
Director: Eddie Martin
Editor: Chris King
International sales: eOne, Cinetic
Australian distributor: Hopscotch/eOne
Synopsis: Blood may be thicker than water but in the case of Tas and Ben Pappas who rose from the western suburbs of Melbourne to become the #1 and #2 skateboarders in the world, it was not sufficient to prevent both brothers from falling into a drug-fuelled spiral to hell from which only one returns.

Production co: FG Film Productions (Australia) Pty Ltd in association with Rising Sun Pictures
Antony I Ginnane
Writer: Justin King
Director: Mark Hartley
International sales: Bankside Films
Australian distributor: Umbrella Entertainment
Synopsis: For three years Patrick has been lying mute and immobile, a patient in Dr Roget’s clinic for the comatose. Dr Roget has been discharging increasingly large doses of electricity into Patrick’s brain, hoping for a sign of brain function. When young nurse Kathy starts working at the clinic, Patrick figures out how to utilise all that pent up power with deadly effect. A reimagining of Richard Franklin’s 1970s chiller.

Production co: 8th In Line Pty Ltd
Liz Kearney
Executive producer: Robert Connolly
Writer/director: Zak Hilditch
International sales: Maze Film Sales, Celluloid Nightmares, XYZ
Australian distributor: Footprint Films
Synopsis: A self-obsessed young man makes his way to the party-to-end-all-parties on the last day on Earth, but ends up saving the life of a little girl searching for her father. Their relationship ultimately leads him on the path to redemption.