Production hell for Brimstone

Aussie Guy Pearce –a long way from his flamboyant Felicia in Priscilla Queen of the Desert – plays a vengeful preacher in Brimstone.

BILLY SUTER reports on Brimstone, an epic thriller which, after some early production hell, is finally opening in South African cinemas on August 4. It is a suspenseful tale of guilt and retribution unfolding in the late 19th century in the American West. It stars Dakota Fanning, Guy Pearce and Kit Harington.


PLANNING did not go well during the early part of creating the movie Brimstone, a triumphant tale of survival, set in the searing wilds of the old American West, which reaches cinemas on August 4.

First off, actress Mia Wasikiwska (of the Alice in Wonderland remake), who filled a principal role, was forced to quit the production due to exhaustion, reports Internet Movie data Base (IMDB).

The same site adds that when one of the movie’s funders also pulled out, Brimstone was nearly bankrupted before any footage was shot, as the crew had already been hired and sets had been built.

Furthermore, director Martin Koolhoven, who has reportedly been preparing the movie for some five years, was said to have landed up in hospital when funding almost fell through. He had symptoms of a heart attack but it turned out he had had a panic attack from all the stress, reports IMDB.

Within a few days, Wasikowska was replaced by former child star Dakota Fanning, adds IMDB. She had already been considered for the part, but had availability problems before, the site reports.

Another problem arose when Twilight star Robert Pattinson was also forced to leave the cast over  “scheduling conflicts”, and Game of Thrones star Kit Harington stepped in as a last-minute replacement, reports IMDB.

Dakota Fanning as Liz in the epic Brimstone.

Brimstone was eventually shot in Germany, Spain, Austria and Hungary. Spain proved perfect for creating the old American west landscapes and deserts, while Austria and Hungary offered the ideal cold and dark atmosphere that fits the grim story.

Dakota, who currently attends New York University and is an Artist Ambassador for Save the Children, plays the lead character, Liz, in Brimstone, a film directed and written by Martin Koolhoven.

It is described as a triumphant tale of survival, a thriller centred on a story of powerful womanhood and resistance against the unforgiving cruelty of a hell on earth.

Fanning portrays a woman carved from the beautiful wilderness, full of heart and grit, hunted by a vengeful preacher (Pearce, of Priscilla Queen of the Desert fame) – a diabolical zealot and her twisted nemesis.

However, Liz is a genuine survivor. She’s no victim – a woman of fearsome strength who responds with astonishing bravery to claim the better life she and her daughter deserve.

The film also features hunky Harington in the role of Samuel, an outlaw, and one of the most internationally known actresses of the Netherlands, Carice van Houten, appears as a character called Anna.

Interestingly, IMDB reports that Van Houten and Pearce became romantically involved on set. They reportedly missed the movie’s premiere at the Venice Film Festival because their son, Monte Pearce, had been born just five days before, th site adds, pointing out that director Koolhoven nicknamed the infant ‘the Brimbaby’.

Getting back to Fanning… she is noted as one of the most popular child actresses ever to emerge from Hollywood, first winning rave reviews as the age of seven, when she became the youngest actress in history to be nominated for the Screen Actors Guild Awards .

That was for her superb performance as the daughter of a man of limited intelligence, played by Sean Penn, in I Am Sam, a hit in 2001.

Her filmography includes Dr Seuss’s Cat In The Hat, Man On Fire, War of the Worlds, Uptown Girls, Dreamer, Charlotte’s Web, The Secret Life of Bees, The Runaways, Coraline, The Twilight Saga and Night Moves.

Kit Harington as outsaw Samuel in Brimstone.

Also, the coming year will see the release of several movies in which Fanning stars. In Ewan McGregor’s American Pastoral (based on the novel by Philip Roth), Dakota plays McGregor’s radicalised daughter, who commits an act of political terrorism during the Vietnam War.

In Please Stand By, directed by Ben Lewin (The Sessions), Dakota plays an autistic woman who runs away from her caregiver in an attempt to submit her manuscript to a writing competition.

“Evoking emotion has always been an important base in Martin’s signature and he is, in my opinion, the most talented Dutch director to connect emotion to an outspoken, very convincing way of cinematographic storytelling,’ says the  producer of Brimstone, Els Vandevorst.

“The intriguing, exciting story and the main characters will appeal to many people. The choices, each detail, but also the prestige, the large scale, the international character and the high budget of Brimstone made it a grand responsibility for me and the entire team.

“Never before have I found such a challenge in producing a film with such a talented director as in realising Brimstone with Martin Koolhoven. The result is a powerful, unique and engaging film that was worth every minute we spent making it, and every struggle we had to endure.”

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