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Australia lures "20,000 Leagues" Down Under with $22.5 million grant

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard leaves a media conference at Parliament House in Canberra March 21, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Taylor
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard leaves a media conference at Parliament House in Canberra March 21, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Taylor

SYDNEY (Reuters) - The Australian government has granted the Walt Disney Studios production of "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" a one-off A$21.6 million ($22.50 million) grant to film the remake of the classic film Down Under.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said in a statement on Tuesday that securing the shoot was a "huge coup" for the local film industry, which has struggled to attract Hollywood productions in recent years because of the strong Australian dollar.

"The filming will give Australian talent the opportunity to work with some of the best screen professionals in the business - both in front of the cameras and behind the scenes," she added.

The government currently offers a 40 percent tax rebate for all feature films but has stepped into the breach before with additional funds, providing a $A12.8 million grant for the filming of the Hugh Jackman vehicle "The Wolverine", which recently completed filming in Sydney.

Gillard's office said that shoot created almost 2,000 jobs, contracted just over 1,000 Australian companies and generated A$80 million of investment.

Local director Baz Luhrmann shot the much-awaited "The Great Gatsby", which is set to open the 2013 Cannes film festival, in Australia last year.

The Star Wars Episodes II & III, the Matrix Trilogy and "Mission: Impossible II" were all filmed in Australia during the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the Australian dollar was weaker, but an extended gap followed.

"20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" is based on a science fiction novel published in 1870 by French writer Jules Verne which follows a navel ship expedition across the world's oceans in search of a mysterious sea monster.

Gillard's office said no casting decisions had yet been made and locations are yet to be finalized.

Australian media said that "Fight Club" and "The Social Network" director David Finch is in line to direct the movie, with Brad Pitt to star as the film's hero Ned Land. ($1 = 0.9602 Australian dollars)

(Reporting By Thuy Ong, Editing by Jane Wardell and Elaine Lies)

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