Peter and Michael Spierig (Undead, Predestination) have announced that they will begin production on WINCHESTER in early 2017, following the confirmation of Screen Australia funding investment. In even bigger news, Helen Mirren has been confirmed to play Sarah Winchester, the millionaire heiress to the Winchester Arms fortune who designed and built the renowned Winchester Mystery House. With 160 rooms, including 40 bedrooms and 10,000 brightly colored window panes, there’s plenty of opportunity for mystery in this large Californian mansion.
This is undoubtedly an exciting announcement for the Australian industry, and a stark contrast with the Spierig’s self-starter beginnings. Their debut film Undead, a very Australian “zombie science fiction horror comedy,” became an instant cult hit following a funding campaign that garnered them a $1 million budget. They followed that debut with Daybreakers and Predestination.
The film follows firearm heiress Sarah Winchester (Helen Mirren) after sudden deaths of her husband and child, who firmly believed she was haunted by the souls killed at the hands of the Winchester repeating rifle. She threw herself into the 24-hour a day, seven days a week construction of an enormous 160-room mansion designed to keep the evil spirits at bay. Skeptical San Francisco psychiatrist Eric Price is dispatched to the estate to evaluate her state of mind, but he discovers that her obsession may not be so insane after all.
In a joint press release, the Spierig brothers commented “There have been few haunted house stories that have captured our imaginations quite like the legend of the Winchester House. Sarah Winchester was an eccentric pioneer, an inventor, a woman plagued by her family’s legacy, we couldn’t be more thrilled to have Helen Mirren bring this fascinating character to life “. The subject of multiple lifestyle specials, the Winchester Mystery House was the subject of the 1963 TV documentary Mrs. Winchester’s House, narrated by silent screen legend Lillian Gish!
WINCHESTER will shoot in Melbourne, Docklands Studios and surrounds in early 2017 before shooting on location at the real Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California. It is widely thought to be one of the “most haunted houses” in the world.
Screen Queensland CEO Tracey Vieira added “We are thrilled to be supporting Queensland-based producer Tim McGahan and Queenslander Writer-Director team, Peter and Michael Spierig, on WINCHESTER. The production will spend over $3.5 million in Queensland with picture, sound and visual fx post production taking place at Queensland-based Cutting Edge.
Produced by Blacklab Entertainment’s Tim McGahan (Predestination) and Imagination Design Works’ Brett Tomberlin, funding comes from Screen Australia Production Investment, with assistance from Film Victoria’s Production Incentive Attraction Fund and Production Investment from Screen Queensland.
It will be released in Australia and New Zealand through StudioCanal, with international distribution confirmed with Diamond Pictures, Bullitt Entertainment and US Distribution confirmed via CBS Films following a successful round of interest at the Cannes Film Market.