State funded film hits trouble

2014-06-29 15:00

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A movie being shot in Cape Town – starring sexy French-Ukrainian Bond girl Olga Kurylenko – is tangled in controversy after local film crew members downed tools because they were not being paid.

Production work on the international thriller, called Momentum, apparently ran out of momentum when its local producer Anton Ernst suffered severe cash flow problems.

The film, about a female bank robber on the run from an assassination squad, is directed by Stephen Campanelli, a friend of Clint Eastwood’s.

Two independent sources told City Press that tension is simmering in the production’s wings and that unpaid staff went on strike – this after Ernst secured millions in funding from the department of arts and culture.

City Press understands that they were finally paid before the weekend, and that filming is continuing – for now.

The Cape Town film industry is now rife with talk that the crew from Momentum may walk over to Sean Penn’s production, The Last Face, which will star Charlize Theron and Javier Bardem as Sudanese doctors.

Sets for Penn’s film are being built in the Northern Cape’s desert towns of Pella and Upington while he has rented office space in Cape Town’s gritty eastern precinct.

This week, Penn was seen gesturing to a small group of men on a pavement skirting Long Street, and sipping coffee at Truth Coffee Roastery.

Looking casually dishevelled, he frowned while sucking on a cigarette after lunch at Cafe Paradiso in Kloof Street.

Observed Cape Town local Lester Kiewit: “Sean Penn is playing the Sunday-morning Kloof Street game: hipster or homeless.”

Last Sunday, Theron’s mother, Gerda, and Penn were spotted heading towards the spa at a posh city hotel. Gerda could possibly be in town to help care for Theron’s toddler son, Jackson.

Local woman Margarita Theron, who saw him at the hotel, said: “Sean is frikking hot in real life!”

Meanwhile, industry insiders say this is not the first time Ernst is experiencing financial woes.His 2009 film Surviving Evil – a South African/British co-production featuring flesh-eating creatures on a tropical island – was also battered with nonpayment issues and cast and crew strikes.

A string of creditors protested outstanding money (totalling about R1.8?million) for services and products delivered for the film, which was shot in Durban, according to a report by industry newspaper The Event. At the time, Ernst blamed late funding from the Industrial Development Corporation for “costs spiralling out of control”, the newspaper reported.

Ernst did not respond to requests for comment this week. The website of his company, Thaba Media, appears not to be functioning. Andrew Schiel, another senior on the production, also did not respond to questions.

While filming limps along, Kurylenko (34) and her hunky co-star James Purefoy (50), who played Mark Antony in the HBO TV series Rome, are hanging out in Cape Town.

Kurylenko was propelled to fame when she played steamy Camille Montes in the 22nd James Bond film, Quantum of Solace, opposite Daniel Craig in 2008.

More recently she starred alongside Morgan Freeman and Tom Cruise in Oblivion.

Local actor Greg Kriek has been sharing film sets with Kurylenko.

In an interview published on News24 on Monday, he elaborated on Momentum. He said he was initially nervous about filming fight scenes with his beautiful co-star, who moved to France in her teens to pursue a modelling career. “She is beautiful and amazing, but oh, the humility. She’s just so committed to her craft.”

Kurylenko appears to be making the most of her stay in the country.

This week, she stroked big cats at the Cheetah Outreach Project and patted elephants at the Aquila Game Reserve in the Karoo.

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