Story Ark Productions, headed by Riccardo Pellizzeri (Underbelly: NZ, Siege, MDA, Blue Heelers) and Lara Radulovich (Wentworth, Neighbours), will bring to life the true story of the iconic Les Girls headliner and Australian transgender pioneer, who lit up Kings Cross in the 1960s and 70s.
Jessica Marais (Packed to the Rafters, Magic City) features in the title role with a cast including Caroline O’Connor, Alex Dimitriades, Anita Hegh, Eamon Farren and Paul Capsis.
Carlotta, who has served as a story consultant on the project, was born as Richard but after years as a confused teenager later transformed into Carol. Against the threat of criminal prosecution and social rejection, she became drag queen and performer Carlotta. Spanning forty years, the projects tackles identity, family, tolerance and acceptance, an is described as ‘an uplifting celebration of finding your place in the world and making your mark – against all odds.’
Radulovich and Pellizzeri said, “This has been a passion project of ours for many years and we are delighted to be bringing Carlotta’s story to the screen. A love story and an outsider tale about an exceptional woman’s desire to be ordinary, hers is an extraordinary life, lived in changing times.”
FremantleMedia, which originally owned the rights to the telemovie, chose not to proceed with the project, but it has led to the establishment of a new production company in Story Ark which already has other drama projects in development.
“They allowed us to take the copyright which we’re delighted with because now Ric and I can bring Carlotta to life,” Radulovich explained.
“Ric and I want to continue to make drama projects with edge.”
David Hannam is screenwriter with story consultation by Carlotta. Samantha Lang (My Place, The Monkey’s Mask) will direct, and the ABC’s Carole Sklan and Christopher Gist are also executive producers.
Head of Fiction Carole Sklan said “The ABC has been dramatising stories of remarkable Australians, from Eddie Mabo to Bernie Banton, individuals who have gone against the grain and contributed to social change. We are thrilled Jessica Marais is playing the remarkable Carlotta.”
Carlotta said “I am absolutely delighted and flattered that this story is being brought to the screen as my main motivation is to show anyone who may be struggling with their gender, or struggling to gain acceptance from their family and society at large – that you can do it. Stand tall, know who you are and be proud of yourself, as acceptance comes from within.”
To be filmed throughout Sydney, production begins on May 6.