‘The Deb’ will begin filming in Australia this September, adapting a musical set in the outback.
Rebel Wilson has announced her directorial debut, The Deb, with one of the film’s key stars being fast-rising indie artist Stevie Jean.
As reported by Variety, the film was announced during a private event hosted by producer Len Blavatnik, where cast members of the titular musical The Deb is based on performed songs from it. In addition to Blavatnik, the film will be produced by Amanda Ghost and Gregor Cameron.
At the helm of production are two companies, Unigram (which recently produced the surprisingly good Tetris film on Apple TV+) and AI Film (which scored critical acclaim with the Margot Robbie vehicle I, Tonya), with Wilson’s own Camp Sugar company also onboard alongside the locally based Bunya Productions. Danny Cohen has also mounted the project as an executive producer.
The Deb premiered as a musical last April, running for an extended season at the Australian Theatre For Young People in Sydney. It was co-directed by Hannah Reilly (best known for the ABC TV series Growing Up Gracefully) with original music from ARIA-winning indie-pop icon Megan Washington.
An official synopsis for the play reads: “High school outcast and whimsical mega-dork Taylah longs to be the princess in her own fairy tale. Which isn’t easy in Dunburn – a drought-stricken Aussie town struggling for survival, where cool girls and footy hunks lead the pack. But when her hyper-woke, inner-city cousin Maeve comes to stay, the pair join forces on a quest to make their mark on the best night of the year: the town’s annual Debutante Ball. In their search for social redemption and the spotlight, chaos ensues – along with a whole lot of fake tan, lace, and diamante tiaras for ya up-do.”
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In an interview with Variety, Wilson – who was raised in Sydney – confirmed that her adaptation of The Deb will be a musical comedy, staying true to the source material. “My skill set has always been musical comedy,” she said. “From my first productions as a playwright, they were all little musical comedies where I wrote the music for those ones back in the day. It’s just so my genre that I thought, out of the other movies that I was offered, this one is a thing [I’m familiar with].”
Wilson went on to cite other Australian films like Muriel’s Wedding and The Adventures Of Priscilla, Queen Of The Desert as her primary inspiration for The Deb. She explained: “I really like seeing my culture on screen. [Those films are] very seminal to me and I really wanted to create a movie that was like the modern version of those. Those movies have such charm, they’re so colourful, and they’re very funny. And they have real heart to them.”
Jean’s character is yet to be confirmed, though Variety reports that she’ll star in a leading role alongside Natalie Abbott and Charlotte MacInnes. Both starred in the original stage production of The Deb, as Taylah and Maeve respectively. Other cast members confirmed for the film include Tara Morice, Jay Laga’aia, Shane Jacobson and Wilson herself.
“Honoured to be a part of [Rebel’s] directing debut,” Jean captioned a photo shared on Facebook last month, posing alongside the director and her leading castmates (who she’s dubbed ‘Rebel’s Angels’).
Jean’s most recent release was her second album, The Dark, which arrived in May of 2021 via Settle Down Records. In an interview with Purple Sneakers, she said of her artistry: “I grew up entrenched in art and nature. My mother raised my brother and I to see these two ideas as essential to living. My father raised us on respect and work ethic. I just followed the path to where I am now. I work hard because it gives me purpose.”