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Jennifer Lawrence to make The Rosie Project in Melbourne? We’d like to see that

Jennifer Lawrence has signed on to play Rosie Jarman in the film adaptation of The Rosie Project. The book is set in Melbourne, but will the film follow suit? Photo: Phil McCarten Jennifer Lawrence in Blenders Lane (digital composite)

Will we see Jennifer Lawrence at Jimmy Watson’s? Photo: Digital Image: Richard Giliberto

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Jennifer Lawrence as a spiky-haired, attitude-rich barmaid? We’d like to see that – and thanks to her being cast as Rosie in the film adaptation of The Rosie Project, announced last week, we soon could.

But Jennifer Lawrence as a spiky-haired, attitude-rich barmaid in Melbourne, where Graeme Simsion’s best-selling novel is very much set? Well, that’s still up in the air.

In fact, ABC radio 774’s Jon Faine is convinced that the film, to be made by Hollywood studio Sony, will be neither made nor set in Melbourne.

“Here is a homegrown international hit … why on Earth would we pass up that opportunity [to make it] here?” he asked while chatting to Simsion on Tuesday.

The following day, while talking with Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, he added that “it’s going now to be done all in Hollywood, in fact it looks like it’s not even going to be set in Melbourne”.

Simsion, whose 2013 novel in fact began life as a screenplay, the first draft of which he completed in 2008, explained that he had always intended to create a work “with an international audience in mind”.

“I think it would be wonderful to have it made in Melbourne,” he added, “but creatively it doesn’t matter a lot to me. Economically, it’s a different matter.”

He’s not wrong there. Jennifer Lawrence now commands up to $US20 million a film, so The Rosie Project won’t be a small affair. Bringing it, and her, to Melbourne would count as a major coup.

Premier Andrews knows it, too. “It would be great to think that film could be made here and if there’s something the Victorian government can do to support that I’m more than happy to talk to people,” he said.

In fact, Melbourne is not yet out of the picture, despite Faine’s assertions.

Jenni Tosi, head of Film Victoria, told Fairfax that her organisation “has had initial discussions with the producer about locating The Rosie Project in Melbourne, and we’ve provided images to him.

“We’d be delighted if Melbourne was selected, however the project is still in development and many factors come into play.

“We’re certainly hopeful that the uniqueness of Melbourne locations, as author Graeme Simsion so beautifully detailed in his book, will also shine through and put us in strong contention.”

Locations aside, our biggest drawcard might be the weakening Australian dollar. For as much as Hollywood likes our locations, our crews and our screen talent, it is ultimately the exchange rate, coupled with tax concessions, that determines whether or not we get to play host to their big-budget productions. And with the dollar hovering around the tipping point of US75 cents, an Australian shoot is far from unrealistic.

Of course, filming the book’s many scenes in Jimmy Watson’s, on the lawn of Melbourne University (never actually named as such, but quite obviously the institution where the socially awkward hero, academic Don Tillman, plies his trade), and the University Club – not to mention the fictional Marquess of Queensberry pub where Rosie pulls her beers – would be so much easier if the film were actually shot here. Wouldn’t it?

If that happens, though, there’ll be a certain irony in it.

Simsion only wrote the novel because he couldn’t drum up interest locally in his screenplay (originally called The Klara Project, with the woman in question being “a nerdy Hungarian”).

“The pretty firm message I got was that Australia isn’t interested in romantic comedies,” he told Fairfax this week.

He spent a couple of years trying to get his film made locally, but the failure of Working Dog’s 2012 rom-com Any Questions For Ben? finally killed off any chances he might have had. “Those guys are as accomplished as anybody in Australia, so people thought if they can’t pull it off why on Earth would you trust a guy with no track record?”

Why indeed. But it’s amazing what a difference selling two million copies will make, isn’t it?

There’s still no Don attached to the film, but Simsion has given some clear indications of the kind of actor he imagines in the role. In the end notes to his novel he wrote “Cary Grant would have made a perfect Don”. He says Ryan Gosling and Steve Carell have shown they can play handsome, socially awkward types with aplomb, but he told Fairfax he’d rather see someone unexpected in the role. “I’d like to be surprised,” he said. “In my mind, great acting trumps everything.”

With no male lead and no director yet attached, there’s still a chance The Rosie Project won’t happen. But if it does, Simsion says, it’s likely to be in the first half of 2016, because that’s when Lawrence is available.

Hey J-Law, in case you’re reading, we’d just like to mention that Melbourne is lovely in March.

We’d love to see J-Law in these locations from The Rosie Project

Jimmy Watson’s

An unnamed riverside reception centre (maybe Leonda in Hawthorn, Fenix​ in Richmond, or Zinc at Federation Square)

Le Gavroche, a posh but fictional hotel restaurant (how about le Restaurant at the Sofitel)

The Marquess of Queensberry pub (surely, the Queensberry Hotel)

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