Brad Pitt.

Watered down ... Brad Pitt is yet to sign on for another Fincher film. Photo: AP

Rumours that Brad Pitt is coming to Australia to film David Fincher’s 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea appear to have been exaggerated, though that is unlikely to deter several states from bidding hard for a piece of the action.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, “local reports that Brad Pitt will star are incorrect”. While the trade paper did not cite sources, Fairfax Media understands the studio producing the film, Disney, is seeking to hose down speculation that Pitt is attached.

The company released a short statement on Friday confirming only the basics. "The Walt Disney Studios is in development on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, with David Fincher set to direct. No casting decisions have been made and production location details have not been finalised."

Arts Minister Simon Crean has confirmed the federal government is keen to ensure the big-budget adaptation of Jules Verne’s 1870 novel – last filmed in 1954 with Kirk Douglas in the lead – comes to Australia. He has made an offer to the studio similar to that which snared The Wolverine in April 2012, when the federal government granted a one-off payment of $12.8 million in a deal it claimed would create $80 million of investment and create 2000 jobs.

The total value of assistance to the film, including state incentives and payroll tax exemption, has been reported as close to $25 million.

"We've made our offer but the deal is not yet done," Mr Crean told Fairfax Media. "It's contingent on similar commitments that NSW made to Wolverine, and likewise in Queensland."

If it does land in Australia, the production is certain to make use of the Warner studios on the Gold Coast because of the large water tank there. Beyond that, though, all states are in the running, with Queensland, NSW and Victoria believed to have made overtures.

Fincher is one of the most esteemed directors in Hollywood, and if his film does come to Australia, Mr Crean claimed it “will be a bigger production than Wolverine. In fact, it will be the biggest production ever filmed in Australia."

Australia values what are known as runaway productions because of the economic activity and employment they produce, but has hosted few big-budget Hollywood films in recent years. The strength of the Australian dollar makes it uneconomic to shoot here without the sort of subsidies offered by Canada, Mexico and the UK, as well as various states in the US outside California.

Mr Crean is hopeful that if Fincher’s nautical adventure can be landed it will open a very significant door.
“Wolverine employed 2000 people and the director, James Mangold, said it was the best crew he's ever worked with,” Mr Crean said. "This is the first one Disney have done with us – and if they get the same view as James, they'll want to be looking here in the future."

kquinn@fairfaxmedia.com.au