Is the Tomorrow Series Australia's Answer to Twilight?
It doesn't have vampires, it doesn't have wolfcake, and it doesn't have its own touring fan conventions. (Yet.) But as of today, Australia's bestselling Tomorrow series of books -- perhaps the most popular young-adult literature franchise you've never heard of -- has a leading lady for its upcoming big-screen adaptation. Paramount is in, and Pirates of the Caribbean/Collateral/G.I. Joe scribe Stuart Beattie will adapt the novel as his directing debut. Oz is abuzz -- but can it cross over?
Beattie today announced he's cast 19-year-old actress Caitlin Stasey (right) as Ellie Linton, the heroine of John Marsden's phenom Tomorrow, When the War Began and one of the most coveted movie roles in the country. Tomorrow is the first of a seven-part series chronicling a ragtag band of teen rebels who resist the foreign invasion of their country -- kind of like an Aussie Red Dawn, I'm told, but with the added complications of hormones as opposed to quaint Cold War paranoia. As their leader (and the first-person narrator of all seven books), Ellie is part action hero, girl-power icon, patriot, and budding romantic; together, from their remote bush encampment known as "Hell," the crew fights on while negotiating the attendant drama that comes with growing up guerrilla.
Stasey comes from TV, where she has appeared in nearly 300 episodes of the Australian soap opera Neighbours -- the same 25-year old institution known for once featuring Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kylie Minogue and other eventual crossover stars. In a release announcing her casting, Beattie cited Stasey's "perfect balance of intelligence, vulnerability and strength that is essential to this character." The same release notes Paramount's deal to distribute in Australia and New Zealand, where Marsden's book have sold 2 million copies to date.
Depending on how generalized a tone Beattie cares to set with the first film, the Tomorrow series could acquire international traction among 18-25 brackets for whom Twilight and Harry Potter will be over by 2011 -- if not before then, at least emotionally. The invading army has no specific national affiliation (It's definitely not America, which declines to get involved by the third book), so no markets are alienated. Stasey's rising profile will land her Hollywood work, popular interest in which could make later installments of the series worth the Stateside investment for Paramount, whose notoriously anemic long-term slate could use the boost. (Beattie himself is part of the problem, having set the studio up with Joe's inner-child demographic in perpetuity.)
Or... not. Either way, it can't hurt to keep an eye out for this one. It could be invading us before you know it.