The Foxy Ladies Abroad
The Kath and Kim girls journey abroad for the film adaptation, 'Kath & Kimderella'.
The real-life location may be Eltham, but - for today - the mountainous region of Victoria has been substituted for Italy on the Kath & Kimderella film set. Or, as executive producer Rick McKenna (Jimeoin) suggests, it is the production's "Australia-for-Italy" shoot. Not that the production is wanting for authenticity, either. Earlier in 2011, McKenna spent months prepping in Italy for the film's two-week shoot in Venice. McKenna says that series creators/stars Gina Riley and Jane Turner wrote the story for an unspecified foreign location, and the crew decided upon Italy because of its availability. McKenna says, "The essence of the story dictated a foreign land. And then it was a case of what foreign land worked best? And then we went on a hunt for countries that were affordable and would offer us the right style and access."
The shift in setting is a distinct change from Kath & Kim's humbler origins as a domestic comedy-cum-satire. Originally an ABC sitcom about the relationship between an honest Australian woman and her self-absorbed daughter, the series has become a global brand, inspiring an unsuccessful - and now forgotten - U.S. remake starring Molly Shannon and Selma Blair. McKenna says that the setting change helped to justify the transfer of the story to the big screen, offering the potential for a high-stakes story set amid aristocratic Europe: "It was for the big screen, and to get our audience to come and see us at the cinema we want to offer something special and the story itself lent itself to the big screen. And then it was a case of ‘do you use a computer generated castle and use locations in Australia or do you really go over there and shoot it in 35mm?' And that's what we did."
The story follows Kim (Riley) becoming involved with a European king, with the comic situations arising from such a blatantly Australian individual mixing with high-ranking international figures. The idea came about after the wedding of Hobart's Mary Donaldson to Frederik, the Crown Prince of Denmark. However, it is there that the similarities end. "The characters are intrinsically the same, but also this storyline - this 90 minute story - gave us the opportunity to introduce new, big characters nobody has ever seen before," McKenna says. "So there are five new characters that have been introduced. We have also brought back previous cameo appearances from past Kath & Kim episodes into the mix, so the warmth is still going to be about the relationship between the mother and the daughter and the family unit, and their own little idiosyncrasies. But ultimately what will come through is the characters."
While the film avoids any blatant big name cameos, the production does benefit from added international appeal in the casting of Richard E. Grant, who appears as an advisor for the monarchy. Grant has worked with the likes of Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman, Francis Ford Coppola, Jane Campion and Bruce Robinson. Yet, before his casting, the Withnail and I actor was an admirer of the program, offering McKenna an impromptu impersonation when they met at a London book signing. McKenna recalls, "Richard said, ‘What do you do?' And I said, ‘I produce some little show down in Australia that you wouldn't know about.' And he said, ‘Oh, I go down to Australia quite a bit. What show is it?' And I said, ‘Kath & Kim.' And he said, ‘Look at me, look at me, Kimmy' in that sort-of ‘trying-to-impersonate-an-Australian-accent-with-an-English-accent.'"
Unfortunately, the failed American TV remake of Kath & Kim is a concern regarding the international release of the film. However, McKenna suggests that the filmmakers will try to sell the film as a comedy overseas. "It is very difficult for an Australian film to get a wide release in America anyway. We are more likely to get an indie-type release and work through the festivals. We just wanted to make a funny film that cut through: it is just a question over whether you use the Kath & Kim name in the foreign title at all, as a matter of fact. As opposed to ‘It's a funny comedy film for you to go and see.' And in the U.K. for example, which is the most primary market outside of Australia, the original series is very well known and highly well regarded so we are pretty confident we will go with it," McKenna says. "We are pretty confident we are going to get the right amount of sales in some English-speaking territories. And then it depends how funny it is and what a box office success it is here in Australia, a hopeful box office success, as to the level of interest it attracts from overseas markets."
Kath & Kimderella is in cinemas September 6. For more on the film, look out for the August 17 issue of FilmInk.
Photo by John Tsiavis