A then 16-year-old Margot Robbie with her ICU co-stars Christian Radford (left) and James Dean (right) during filming on the Gold Coast in 2007
IT has been a long time coming, but Margot Robbie’s first-ever acting role will finally hit the big screen this weekend as part of the Gold Coast Film Fantastic, which opens today.
Gold Coast-raised actor Robbie stars as Donna Freedman on Australian soapie Neighbours but her debut performance was a starring role in actor/writer and director Aash Aaron’s psychological thriller ICU, filmed more than two years ago.
Budget constraints forced Aaron to put ICU on the back seat while he and Robbie filmed another feature, Vigilante, which screened at last year’s Gold Coast Film Fantastic.
However, the director has since completed ICU and will unveil his handiwork as part of this year’s four-day Film Fantastic.
Aaron, who has also starred in Neighbours and US series The Starter Wife, says Robbie was not his first choice for ICU.
“I cast the two boys (Christian Radford and James Dean) and another girl and I felt at the first rehearsal, though beautiful, the girl just didn’t have the passion,” says Aaron.
“I asked Christian if he knew anyone and he said ‘I’ve got a girl who I’ve grown up with like a sister and she’s just dynamic’.”
That girl was Robbie, who was just 16 years old at the time. The teenager spent four months training with Aaron before shooting began in one of Q1’s highest apartments.
The thriller centres on three teens, staying at their father’s flash new apartment, who use a video camera to spy on people in adjacent buildings.
They witness what they think is a murder but little do they know someone is watching them on the CCTV cameras in their own apartment.
“I thought wouldn’t it be interesting instead of it just being a movie about the kids looking at somebody, that the kids were unaware that someone was watching everything that they were doing,” says Aaron.
“I really enjoy that extra element of the film — making it work with the double plot lines.”
Aaron’s choice to film in Q1 was more about staying on budget than featuring the iconic residential tower. He says he had to make a ‘one-room thriller’.
“I had to contain it,” he says.
“It had to be in a room that looks out on to other rooms and being on the Gold Coast, when you look out you see sky scrapers.”
Aaron says he hopes local filmmaking will continue to grow and become one of the Coast’s main industries.
“I love the Gold Coast and I don’t see why we can’t make really good films here,” he says.
Aaron hopes to do just that with his next film — Black Friday, an action drama about three teens who find themselves on the wrong side of the police and a bikie gang.
Like his previous two features, Black Friday will star three young local actors and will be shot in the Gold Coast Hinterland.
ICU screens at Australia Fair on Saturday at 8pm. The Gold Coast Film Fantastic runs from today until Sunday. For more information go to http://www.filmfantastic.com.au