It would seem highly doubtful that an Aboriginal girl would have attended the posh Appleyard College For Young Ladies back in 1900, but the new television adaptation of iconic Australian novel Picnic At Hanging Rock is set to re-write our showbiz folklore.
Playing one of the three school girls who goes missing at the fabled picnic site in the big-budget Foxtel series is young Indigenous actor Madeleine Madden, who takes on the role of Marion Quade.
Madden will play a pivotal character in the six-hour long series, which is estimated to be costing around $12 million to create, putting it among the most expensive Australian television productions ever. Filming on the series wrapped a fortnight ago at Hanging Rock, though the series is not expected to air until 2018.
On Tuesday night Madden graced the stage at Foxtel’s big relaunch and proudly spoke of her Indigenous heritage hinting that it would become part of Picnic At Hanging Rock‘s new adaptation, though exactly how is not clear.
Indeed Madden comes from a proud Indigenous history in the real world. Her grandfather was the late activist Charles Perkins, who in 1965 organised a bus tour of western NSW towns to highlight discrimination, which later became known as the Freedom Ride.
In the original Picnic At Hanging Rock novel by Joan Lindsay, written a year after Perkins’ Freedom Ride, the character of Marion was very much that of a white girl, as she was in the Peter Weir film of 1975, played by Jane Vallis.
However according to Foxtel director of television Brian Walsh, Madden’s role was symbolic of “how far we have come” since Picnic At Hanging Rock first emerged 50 years ago.
“It is going to be a very contemporary reimagining of the story, not a carbon copy of the Peter Weir film … we look at the story through a very female lens,” Walsh told PS, adding the production would rank as one of the most expensive and ambitious in Australian television history.
PS understands the new series is costing more than $2 million per episode, and cements Foxtel’s position as the leading provider of quality Australian television drama, for which it won recognition at this year’s Logies.
“We are getting a lot of international interest in this production and we are about to announce a very major deal with a US network … it will be a profitable venture for us,” Walsh assured PS.
Game Of Thrones star Natalie Dormer is playing the role of headmistress Hester Appleyard.
On screen Marion will be joined on screen in the new adaptation by Samara Weaving (niece of actor Hugo Weaving) playing Irma and Lily Sullivan in the role of Miranda.
“These are the new wave of leading Australian actors … they are the new generation of Nicoles and Cates,” Walsh enthused.
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