How director Beattie will make Tomorrow war real

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Dec 14, 2012, 3:54 PM EST

America may have its futuristic invasion movie, Red Dawn, but Australia has a whole series of books about the subject: written by John Marsden, the Tomorrow series begins with an invasion and occupation of the island continent in Tomorrow, When the War Began. Oz native and screenwriter Stuart Beattie makes his directorial debut with the film adaptation, which he also scripted.

In the series, Australia is invaded and occupied by a foreign power. The novels are told from the point of view of Ellie Linton, a teen girl, who is part of a small band of teens waging a guerrilla war on the enemy soldiers in their fictional hometown of Wirrawee.

Though the war is fictional, Beattie plans to make it look real. "It's very much more in the style of, say, Black Hawk Down," Beattie said in an exclusive phone interview on Wednesday while promoting G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. "I mean, it's a war. It's the invasion of a country. So it's much more grounded, of course, [than G.I. Joe, which Beattie also wrote]."

Beattie has written action spectacles such as Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Collateral and Australia. His philosophy is to have fewer action sequences but to make those better and more memorable than mediocre ones scattered throughout a film.

For Tomorrow, Beattie said, "[there are] only four action sequences in the whole movie, but they're great action sequences. Because you're invested in the characters, you really care what happens in them."

In making the leap to directing, Beattie had three criteria he wanted to meet. The first was simply to remain native to Australia. "I wanted it to be an Australian story, Australian characters, about Australia, because I'm Australian," he said.

Second, Beattie wanted to make a fun movie. "I take it very seriously, that pact with the audience, that they're going to lay down their money and their time," he said. "You really have to deliver on that and give them their value for money. So I was looking for a story that had some real commercial aspects to it."

Third, he wanted to have great characters, which don't always appear in commercial vehicles. The Marsden novels helped with that. "To be based on this kind of hit book series that so many people, at least in this country, know and love—I mean, it was on school curriculums here—it just had everything, all those elements and more," he said. "Great characters, great setting, great locales, on top of that, based on a series of best-selling books. Really, what more can you ask for?"

Beattie is currently in Australia prepping for a September shoot. Omnilab Media is producing.