Foxtel to return to The Devil’s Playground

Exclusive: Matchbox Pictures to produce sequel on The Devil's Playground, and new dramas for ABC.

EXCLUSIVE: Matchbox Pictures will produce a drama series for Foxtel that is a sequel to Fred Schepisi’s 1976 film The Devil’s Playground.

Return to the Devil’s Playground (working title) is a 6 hour drama set 35 years after the acclaimed film, which was set in 1953 at a Catholic seminary.

“It’s the character played by Simon Burke grown up, who will (again) be played by Simon Burke (pictured, left). He’s a psychiatrist and he becomes a counsellor to some of the priests in the church,” said Matchbox producer Penny Chapman.

“It’s 1988 and the Church is going through a really interesting phase where the liberal and conservative movements are kind of level-pegged with each other before the conservatives become much more dominant.

“So it’s a story about authority and silence.”

The original film was part of the Australian film renaissance in the 1970s. It was semi-autobiographical for Schepisi, and focussed on the trials of the flesh for both students and priests. The themes of the Foxtel series will certainly be timely given the current political landscape.

Matchbox is also developing its drama series to mark the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli (also a working title).

“It’s about the embedded journalists and their attempts to get the truth out about what was happening with the campaign, and their relationships with the men who were fighting and the ways they handled the censorship they were dealing with,” Chapman explained.

“There’s a fantastic story running to the end of (Brit journalist) Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett running to give a letter to (Australian journalist) Keith Murdoch to take to London. He got arrested in Marseilles, and was forced to hand it over. When he got to London he tabled what he could remember of it. When it finally came out it was very influential in bringing about an early evacuation than what was planned.

“The Gallipoli story is really important but in and of itself it’s a fantastic drama.”

Sam Worthington’s Full Clip Productions are also on board and there is hope he will play one of the leads.

“We don’t know yet, but I’m hoping,” said Chapman.

“We’re putting the directors on board at the moment, but I think he is of a mind to (appear). It just depends on what’s happening with his schedule.”

Both Return to The Devil’s Playground and Gallipoli have advances from Matchbox partner NBC-Universal.

“They like them both very much and see them as eminently sellable internationally, although they are very Australian,” she said.

Matchbox also has The Real Housewives of Australia coming to Foxtel next year plus two new projects in development with the ABC.

Tony Ayres is behind the 10 part series The Lost Boys for ABC3.

“It’s an original idea of Tony’s and it’s about 4 boys who get caught in a storm on a school excursion and get separated from the school and make their way back the next day to their school. But they discover that everybody they ever knew in their lives never existed.” Chapman explained.

It is also in development on a 6 part drama for the ABC titled Glitch.

“It’s a high concept piece about a number of people who come back to life. They rise from the dead because of a glitch…

“It’s not a vampire or zombie movie!”

4 Responses

  1. I’m with Victor on this as usual. Why arthouse cinema redux on STV? Very ABC – not in a good way. What happened to noisy, edgy, modern, innovative drama at Foxtel? What’s going on inside Foxtel’s drama commissioning choices now Showtime has been absorbed?

  2. Sorry but Return to Devil’s Playground sounds incredibly dull and worthy. I would have thought Foxtel could do better than this but it did fund the incredibly boring Cloudstreet which the audience deserted in droves, hugely disappointed after the first night that one of Australia favourite books was so dull on screen. And is there a writer in the country who could make Glitch work over six hours? I agree with Idiotbox…predictable.

  3. “Glitch” sounds interesting. It will obviously be about people being given a second chance to do things better in their lives, so maybe a “zombie or vampire” twist might give it an edge. Otherwise I think it will be predictable

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