Paradise Road (1997 film)

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Paradise Road
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Bruce Beresford
Produced by Sue Milliken
Written by Bruce Beresford
David Giles
Martin Meader
Betty Jeffrey
Starring Glenn Close
Frances McDormand
Pauline Collins
Johanna ter Steege
Julianna Margulies
Music by Ross Edwards
Cinematography Peter James
Edited by Tim Wellburn
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release dates
  • 11 April 1997 (1997-04-11) (United States)
  • 5 June 1997 (1997-06-05) (Australia)
Running time
122 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $25 million[1]
Box office $2,007,100[2]

Paradise Road is a 1997 war film which tells the story of a group of English, American, Dutch and Australian women who are imprisoned by the Japanese in Sumatra during World War II. It was directed by Bruce Beresford and stars Glenn Close as Adrienne Pargiter, Frances McDormand as the brash Dr. Verstak, Pauline Collins as missionary Margaret Drummond (based on missionary Margaret Dryburgh), Julianna Margulies as American socialite Topsy Merritt, Jennifer Ehle as British doyenne and model Rosemary Leighton Jones, Cate Blanchett as Australian nurse Susan McCarthy and Elizabeth Spriggs as dowager Imogene Roberts.

The film[edit]

Basing his film on real events, Bruce Beresford tells the story of a vocal orchestra created by the women in a Japanese Internment camp, a classic survivors' tale about women's ability to survive hardship and atrocity through perseverance, solidarity and creativity.



The story is based on the testimony of Betty Jeffrey, as written in her 1954 book White Coolies. The 1965 book Song of Survival by Helen Colijn (granddaughter of Hendrikus Colijn), another camp survivor, is not listed in the film's credits as being a source for this film, although Colijn is thanked for her help in the credits.

According to the media information kit for the film, Martin Meader & David Giles researched the story from 1991 and met with survivors from the camp and choir. Meader & Giles wrote the original screenplay which was titled, 'A Voice Cries Out'. Graeme Rattigan then joined Meader and Giles and together the three travelled the world, raising $8.275 million for the film. They met Beresford in London and he immediately became interested in the project. Together with Village Roadshow, Beresford took over the film, re-wrote the script and renamed the project, Paradise Road.

Beresford and producer Sue Milliken then did their own research of the story for over more than two years", by reading books and unpublished diaries on the subject and by interviewing survivors. Meader and Giles got a 'Story by' credit, and with Rattigan, they all received a Co-Executive Producer Credit. Their company, Planet Pictures, received an 'In Association With' credit.[3]

The film represents an alternative take on female imprisonment by the Japanese during World War II compared with BBC's dramatic offering from the early 1980s, Tenko. Some criticism of the film's historical accuracy is discussed in an article by Professor Hank Nelson.[3]

Fox provided $19 million of the budget with $6 million coming from Singapore businessman Andrew Yap.[4]

The role of Dr Verstak was originally offered to Anjelica Huston who demanded more profit share than the filmmakers were willing to give, so Frances McDormand was cast instead. The part of Margaret Drummond was to be played by Jean Simmons but she had to withdraw due to illness; the studio wanted Joan Plowright but she accepted another offer and Pauline Collins wound up being cast. Fox were reluctant to cast Cate Blanchett in the lead as she was relatively unknown at the time but Beresford insisted.[5]

Production took place in Marrickville Sydney, Singapore, Port Douglas and Penang.


The film performed poorly commercially. However producer Sue Milliken says "it is the film I am most proud of".[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Milliken p 230
  2. ^ "Paradise Road (1997)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 14 March 2013. 
  3. ^ a b Nelson, Hank (March 1999). "A map to Paradise Road: A guide for historians". Journal of the Australian War Memorial (Canberra, Australia: Australian War Memorial) (32). Retrieved 30 April 2012. 
  4. ^ Milliken p 224
  5. ^ Milliken p 228-229
  6. ^ Milliken p 247


External links[edit]