Bringing Trent Dalton’s Universe of Swallows to the Screen

Four years ago, when Queensland writer and journalist Dalton published his first novel, child swallows universebecame a global success story overnight.

The semi-autographic short story became the best-selling debut novel in Australia since Nielsen BookScan records began, taking nearly every literary award along the way. By 2020, it had sold over 500,000 copies across all formats in Australia.

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With 221 million paid memberships in more than 190 countries, streaming giant Netflix, which bought the rights to the book due to its universal appeal, has unveiled its Australian cast and the first footage from the set of an eight-part limited series.

speaking to the new daily of Brisbane, Dalton, who is an executive producer on the set, says the last six months of production have been “surreal, weird, full-circle wonderful stuff.”

“Every month my wife and I would get an update from Hollywood on the next great actor who just signed on as the real people in my life who inspired all the characters in the book and whom I truly love,” he says.

“My wife and I would high-five each time a new name came up.

“All these beautiful stars entered my universe. It’s huge for me. I’m a fan of film and television, so it’s amazing to be a part of pop culture in this way now.”

Acting royalty joins the cast

For those few who didn’t get to read the book or discuss it at the weekly book club meetings, child swallows universe follows a boy growing up in Brisbane in the 1980s. The official synopsis from HarperCollins publishers describes it as a story of “brotherhood, true love and friendships.”

Eli Bell and his family, including stepfather Lyle Orlik, as well as his friends and enemies, are based on Dalton’s own family and influences from his childhood.

The Netflix series has earned some acting rights for its key roles, including Travis Fimmel (Vikings, Warcraft, Raised by Wolves) as Orlik, Simon Baker (The Mentalist, Breath, High Ground) as Robert Bell, and Phoebe Tonkin (Babylon, Kid Snow, Transfusion, Westworld) as Frances Bell.

The roles of young Eli and his brother Gus Bell will be played by Felix Cameron (penguin flower) and Lee Halley (The Heights, Featherweight, Crazy Fun Park), respectively.

A host of Australian acting legends round out the cast including Bryan Brown (Cocktail, Breaker Morant, Two Hands Y palm beach), Anthony LaPaglia (Nitram, Florida man, no trace) and Sophie Wilde (You Don’t Know Me, The Shit Bucket, The Portable Door, Tom Jones).

“To have that cast of adult actors, I haven’t seen a collection of brilliant Australian actors for quite some time that is that strong,” says Dalton, a 17-year-old journalist currently writing for the australian newspaper and weekend magazine. “There are five or six that are incredible and are pillars of the way of acting.”

A musical version of the book made its world premiere last year at the opening of the Brisbane Festival and became the biggest-selling show in Queensland Theatre’s history.

Westworld’s Phoebe Tonkin as Frances Bell in child swallows universe. Photo: Netflix

Why did Dalton write? child swallows universe

As an executive producer, Dalton says that the house recreated for the series was completed with “love and dedication”, and the directors capitalized on his thinking along the way.

“[They’ll] call me and ask what something means, as the book has many double meanings. And it’s my chance to dig deeper, how kids deal with trauma, how we find love in unlikely places,” she says.

“I see myself trying to inflate the tires of every cast and crew member on set because I love them so much. Trying to bring the spirit to everything.”

Dalton has nothing but praise for 13-year-old Victorian actor Cameron, who plays Eli, describing him as “an old soul in a young body.”

“We kept talking about finding a young River Phoenix, with that young, raw, pure heart… I always saw Eli Bell in the book, this fragile soul who is so deep and has so much to give, that he carries a lot of weight on his shoulders. head. back.

“’They found this boy. You know him in person, he’s gorgeous… it was a pleasure meeting him. He was funny, funny, absolutely aware of where the story is going and what it has to contribute.

Everything is told through his eyes. It is a huge role. She is killing him. He is amazing on screen. I fell in love with him and I think the world will too.”

This article was first published in The New Daily.

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