Russell Crowe Directing Second Feature ‘Poker Face’ Amid Strict Sydney Lockdown

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Russell Crowe has taken the reins as director of upcoming thriller “Poker Face.” Applying strict COVID-safe Guidelines, filming is now taking place on location around Sydney, Australia, and at the city’s Fox Studios.

Set in the world of high stakes poker and international finance, Crowe stars as a tech billionaire caught in a risky card game.

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The cast also includes Liam Hemsworth, Elsa Pataky and Wu-Tang Clan frontman RZA, a long-time friend of Crowe’s. While Hemsworth and RZA’s roles are not clear, it has been reported by local press that Pataky plays a glamorous croupier.

While the original script was set in Miami, it is believed Crowe pushed producer Arclight Films to switch the setting to Sydney where the film could showcase the city’s impressive landmarks. The film is also reported to include a car chase that plays out across the city.

Crowe previously directed the acclaimed film “The Water Diviner” in 2014. He is a prime mover behind the initiative to build a new studio at Byron Bay.

Sydney is expected to remain locked down until the end of August, its toughest health restrictions of the pandemic era. But Crowe joins other A-list stars including Nicole Kidman and Natalie Portman in keeping the city a global hub of international production.

Kidman recently wrapped an episode of Apple TV Plus anthology series “Roar” with co-stars Judy Davis and Simon Baker. Meanwhile, Portman has been in Sydney since September 2020, first shooting “Thor: Love and Thunder” and now filming HBO’s “Days of Abandonment.”

“Days of Abandonment” is being assisted by the Australian federal government to the tune of AUS$3.4 million ($2.51 million) from its AUS$540 million ($399 million) Location Incentive program.

Portman plays a woman who abandoned her own dreams for a stable home life, and in turn, abandoned by her husband, has her world thrown off its axis.

The film stars Rafe Spall and Mary Louise Parker and is directed by Maggie Betts who also wrote the screenplay as an adaptation of the 2002 novel of the same name by “My Brilliant Friend” author Elena Ferrante.

“We are very appreciative to have the opportunity to safely film in Australia alongside the talented people who live and work in the country,” said executive producers Maggie Betts, Celine Rattray, Sophie Mas and Len Amato.

New South Wales Minister for the Arts, Don Harwin, said that securing “Days of Abandonment” cemented NSW’s place as Australia’s film production powerhouse. “NSW is the creative heart of Australia, employing 56% of the people in [Australia’s] screen industry and there is no better place for production of this feature film,” Harwin said.

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