The Hollywood big shots joining Nicole Kidman in Byron Bay
Production on the Nicole Kidman-backed television short series Nine Perfect Strangers is underway on the NSW North Coast, bringing hope to an ailing arts industry and more than a dash of Hollywood pizazz to Byron Bay's sleepy hinterland.
New Jersey actor Bobby Cannavale, star of Blue Jasmine and The Irishman, was the last to join the cast alongside Oscar-nominated US funny woman Melissa McCarthy and co-producer Kidman, who will also star.
Cannavale's Australian partner, Rose Byrne, and the couple's young sons Rocco and Rafa, have also swapped COVID-19 crushed New York for the Northern Rivers.
In recent weeks a rural property on the outskirts of Byron Bay has been transformed into a Californian-style health retreat for the eight-episode Hulu series that reunites Kidman with Australian co-producer Bruna Papandrea and top-selling Sydney novelist Liane Moriarty, upon whose book, Big Little Lies, the womens' previous Emmy-winning TV series was based.
Nine Perfect Strangers tells the story of nine stressed and worn-out characters who check into boutique health resort Tranquillum hoping to transform themselves during a 10-day retreat.
Among the group is a romance novelist, a lottery winner, a grieving couple whose son has died, a single mother looking to shed weight and a divorce lawyer.
Each hopes the unconventional Russian retreat proprietor Masha, played by Kidman, can reinvigorate them.
The series, which is directed by American Jonathan Levine (Papandrea's collaborator on Warm Bodies), has been a passion project for Kidman and Papandrea since they acquired the rights to the novel ahead of its literary release in July 2018.
The series also sees Kidman reunited with acclaimed US TV director David E. Kelley, creator and screen-writer of the 2017-19 TV series Big Little Lies which garnered four Golden Globes.
Kelley shares screen credits as co-writer and co-executive producer of Nine Perfect Strangers.
Kidman and her husband Keith Urban, and daughters Sunday and Faith, returned to Australia three weeks ago and bunkered down at their Southern Highlands property for two weeks of mandatory police-supervised quarantine.
Last week the actress, who has been working on her Russian accent during her fortnight in quarantine, emerged from isolation to attend the final week of preproduction meetings, something she's been participating in via online conference calls during quarantine.
McCarthy, Cannavale, director Levine and other internationals attached to the project, were also required to spend 14 days in quarantine.
The series shoot is scheduled to wrap mid-December, freeing the Kidman-Urbans to spend Christmas in Australia.
Kidman anchors the production as Maria "Masha" Dmitrichenko - a former high-flying executive who has a come to God moment at the peak of her corporate career and reinvents herself as director of boutique health-and-wellness resort Tranquillum. Masha's unorthodox methods often confound and terrify her clients.
Her staff are Yao (Manny Jacinto) a former paramedic who once saved Masha's life and Delilah (Tiffany Boone) the former PA-turned-wellness consultant who sees everything precisely what her boss is up to at Tranquillum House.
McCarthy plays Frances Welty, a 50-something twice-divorced romance novelist. She is suffering from physical pain manifested by career and romance issues. Bruised by criticism - and news her editor won't be publishing her 19th book - she retreats to Tranquillum House following a recommendation from a friend.
Boardwalk Empire star Cannavale stars as Tony 'Smiley' Hogburn, star football player (originally an AFL legend in Moriarty's book but readapted for screen) with a face full of tattoos. Newly divorced, the 56-year-old former athlete is depressed about getting older and checks into the retreat to figure out if life is worth living.
The Hobbit star Evans is Lars Lee, the handsome divorce lawyers who only represents female clients. Lars appears to have it all. He has a great job. A great relationship. He seems to have it all figured out but a hallucination has him haunted about a choice he has made, one that has ruptured him relationship with his gay partner.
Ex-Home and Away star Weaving plays Jessica Chandler, the 20-something plastic surgery obsessed wife of Ben. The couple are struggling after winning $22 million in the lottery - a "curse" says Jessica's mother. Jessica is obsessed with her social media profile, her looks and celebrities. The couple check in to the spa to save their marriage.
American Vandal's Gregg is Ben Chandler, Jessica's Lamborghini-obsessed husband who isn't happy with the way his wife has changed since their lottery win, though he's very happy with his car. Ben wants the couple's marriage to revert to its pre-lottery state and isn't convinced Tranquillum can fix it.
Hall - known from the Road Trip movie - stars as Carmel Schneider, a mother of four whose husband has left her for a younger woman. Carmel is looking to lose weight and is of the view her husband Joel wouldn't have left her for a thinner and fitter woman were she in better shape.
The Shape of Water star Shannon plays Napoleon Marconi who, with his wife Heather, checks into the retreat to deal with the grief of losing a son. A teacher, Napoleon always feels he should take charge of everything. He needs to be strong for his wife and daughter and blames himself for the death of Zach.
The Logie-winning Australian actress is Heather Marconi, wife of Napoleon. She's angry about her son's death but unlike her husband, refuses to move on, choosing instead to live with her grief. Heather believes she is responsible for Zach's death after giving the boy medication.
Grace Van Patten
Van Patten from Under The Silver Lake stars as Zoe, Heather and Napoleon's 20-year-old daughter, Zach's twin. She's angry with her brother for taking his own life - and blames herself for not being able to stop him on the eve of their birthday. Her parents have struggled with their relationship since Zach's death but she feels guilty for his death.