Editor's note: The article below is incorrect and resulted from a hoax published on April 1 that several media outlets reported on.
Can an Australian actor do justice to a Canadian performing legend?
We’re about to find out.
Clint Eastwood, showing few signs of slowing down at age 83, has announced that he’s chosen Aussie Bryan Brown to play the late Stompin’ Tom Connors in a new biopic, The Ballad of Stompin’ Tom.
The four-time Oscar-winner, director of Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby and Letters from Iwo Jima, has acquired cinematic rights to two Connors biographies, which will form the basis of his screenplay. He will also direct.
Canadian songstress Shania Twain has been cast to play Connors’s wife, Lena Welsh.
“Connors was a true original. Canada’s troubadour,” Eastwood told The Hollywood Reporter. “He sang about the everyday Canadian experience in the same way Woody Guthrie sang about the American experience.”
Connors died of kidney failure at his home in Ballinafad, Ont., on March 6 at the age of 77.
Brown is perhaps best known for his work in Cocktail with Tom Cruise and to TV audiences for his role as Luke O’Neill in The Thorn Birds (1983), starring Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward. His most recent film was Love Birds (2011), a New Zealand comedy.
He is said to be studying with a University of Toronto linguistics expert to master Connors’s Maritime accent. “Learning to speak Canadian is a lot harder than I thought,” he said in a recent interview. “The Leafs are gonna win the Cup fer sure, eh?”
Catching the right inflection will not be easy, according to Connors son’s, Tom Connors Jr. “Bryan is focused on getting Dad’s mannerisms and speech perfect. It’s an uphill battle, because he had such a unique power and resonance in his voice.”
Eastwood had been scheduled to direct a film adaptation of the hit musical Jersey Boys, but it appears the Connors project will now supersede that one. The film goes into pre-production next month, with filming set to begin in Saint John and Skinners Pond, PEI, this summer. Auditions begin this month in Toronto, Saint John and Charlottetown to find actors to play Connors as a child, teenager and young adult.
Brown won’t have to sing, however, because Connors’s original recordings will be used.
Eastwood first heard Connors’s music while researching songs for his 1982 film Honkytonk Man. Executive producer Fritz Manes gave Eastwood a copy of Connors’s 1971 album, Pistol Packin’ Mama, which included a version of Honky Tonk Girl.
The film is scheduled to open in theatres on June 27, 2014.