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In my Father's Den




Paul (Matthew Macfadyen), a battle weary war photographer, returns to his remote New Zealand hometown, when his father dies, and faces the past he left behind. To his surprise, he also finds the sixteen year old Celia (Emily Barclay), the daughter of his first girlfriend, who hungers for the world beyond her small-town.
But many, including the members of both their families, frown upon the friendship and when Celia goes missing, Paul becomes increasingly persecuted as the prime suspect in her disappearance. As the violent and urgent truth gradually emerges, Paul is forced to confront the family tragedy and betrayal he ran from as a youth, and to face the grievous consequences of silence and secrecy that has surrounded his entire adult life.

About In my Father's Den

In 1996 Trevor Haysom produced Brad McGann's award-winning short film Possum. After this successful collaboration, Haysom approached Brad to see if he was interested in writing a screen adaptation of In My Father's Den by Maurice Gee, one of New Zealand's foremost novelists.

Haysom explains, "I was intrigued by the story's tonal qualities and particularly drawn to Gee's central obsession of 'the difficulty of connecting' and recognised this as a theme running through Brad's work. We embarked on a four year development period funded by the New Zealand Film Commission."

In her review of Possum for the Danish publication P.O.V., Mette Hjort described Brad as "a quintessentially modern practitioner of tragic fiction." Haysom feels, "Brad's potent adaptation of Maurice Gee's work endorses this statement. He has applied a challenging structure to tell a seemingly simple story in a compelling and original way. In My Father's Den is a masterful character-driven mystery, a genre that has rarely been exploited in New Zealand films."

While discussing the next part of the process Haysom explains, "In 2002, while Brad and I were in London casting for Paul, we had a significant meeting with Dixie Linder and Lizzie Francke from Little Bird, the UK/Irish production company. Dixie (producer of The War Zone) read the script and was overawed by its strength and the power of Brad's writing. Linder says "I see a lot of scripts, I know people always say this, but seriously this is genuinely one of the best scripts I've ever read."

Her passion for the project developed over the ensuing months and she entered into a joint venture arrangement to make the film an official NZ-UK co-production. The association with Little Bird was pivotal in attracting support from the UK Film Council.

As Linder explains "It shows you the power of the script. This was a first time feature director and there were no big names at that time, yet the financiers were willing to invest in the film based on the strength of the writing."

Haysom, Linder and McGann held casting sessions in London for the central role of Paul Prior because in the story this character had been living in Europe for the past seventeen years and it's highly likely he would have had little trace of a New Zealand accent. Casting someone with a natural English accent seemed logical and once the NZ-UK co-production was in place, casting this role out of the UK was an ideal scenario.

Brad was impressed with Macfadyen's performances in Warriors, Peter Kosminsky's film for television. The two met in London and Brad felt that Matthew had the necessary intelligence, emotional complexity, strength and humility to play his complex leading man. Macfadyen was drawn to the project by the strength of the script, "It was the best script I'd read in ages and ages. I read it in one sitting in the bath. Which is the acid test really � and it's a fabulous part."

Casting agent, Diana Rowan who discovered both Oscar winner Anna Paquin (The Piano) and Oscar nominee Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider), scoured New Zealand to find Celia. It was essential to find a young actress who had the personality and depth to carry off this crucial role. After an extensive search, 18 year old Emily Barclay was cast. Emily embraced the role with great passion and enthusiasm and established a fantastic working relationship with Matthew Macfadyen. Achieving the right chemistry and dynamic between Paul and Celia was paramount, their relationship lies at the heart of the story.

New Zealander Colin Moy, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Macfadyen, plays Paul's brother Andrew, and Australian actress Miranda Otto (Lord of the Rings) plays Penny, Andrew's wife. New Zealanders Jodie Rimmer, Vicky Haughton and Jimmy Keen also play key roles in this strong ensemble cast.

The strength of McGann's script attracted New York based cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh (The Piano, Bridget Jones's Diary, The Recruit) to work back in his home country for the first time since 1994 when he shot Once Were Warriors.

With finance, casting and key crew in place. In My Father's Den began its eight-week shoot in New Zealand on 8th September 2003.


For more detailed information about this movie or any other New Zealand film please go to the New Zealand Film Commission

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