Hollywood is abuzz with news that veteran action movie star Bruce Willis has agreed to replace Aussie actor Rose Byrne in the lead role of a controversial film now in production about New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s response to the deadly 2019 Christchurch mosque terrorist attacks.
Industry insiders say the US production company behind the film, Film Nation Entertainment, has been stung by a public backlash against the project.
Critics have argued that the planned movie They Are Us puts the spotlight on Ardern as a white woman instead of on the 51 Muslim victims of the fatal shooting attacks.
I can reveal that the public disquiet has forced Ms Byrne to reconsider her lead role in the proposed film and quit the production just days after NZ-based producer Philippa Campbell did the same.
I can also reveal exclusively to readers of The Bug that US action film star Bruce Willis has already been drafted to replace Ms Byrne and has begun shooting as well as filming some scenes (main picture).
A Film Nation Entertainment insider told me the company had responded quickly to public concerns which have included a petition calling for the film to be scrapped.
“We are well aware of the arguments being mounted against the movie,” he confided in me.
“But following Rose’s decision to leave we moved quickly to sign Bruce Willis up to the lead role to help address any lingering concerns.
“Bruce knows the importance of this film and the sensitivities involved when the events it portrays are still so fresh in people’s minds and emotions are still very raw.
“That’s why he has agreed in his contract to deliver at least four, rather than his trademark three facial expressions, during his performance.
“We’re also very confident that critics will change their minds about the film once they see key scenes like the one where Bruce as Ardern kicks in the mosque doors and marches across the tiled floor in his army boots with a machine gun blasting away and yells at the shooter: ‘Yippee ki-yay motherfucker.’
“We shot that scene just the other day and it gave me goosebumps,” the insider said.