Thanks to her devoted fans, Miss Fisher is flying high again
THE seeds for a Miss Fisher movie were sown well before the series stopped filming.
It's been nearly five years since Essie Davis last graced the small screen as shrewd, sassy and whip-smart Phryne Fisher in the ABC series based on Kerry Greenwood's historical murder mysteries.
Despite a schedule chock full of other filming commitments - including Foxtel's Lambs of God and Stan's True History of the Kelly Gang - she relished the chance to revive the beloved super-sleuth for the big screen in Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears.
"We started talking about making a movie during season two," Davis says.
"I always felt like an hour wasn't long enough to have a murder, enough suspects and solve it as well as have all the delightful romp riot going on. And the fact that Phryne is an international woman - she's lived her life all over the place, speaks so many languages and has skills from all of her adventures like flying planes, modelling, being an ambulance officer - there's always been this element of wouldn't it be fantastic to film these stories in other countries.
"Then it took Deb (Cox, writer and producer) coming up with a story that I thought was cinema worthy for that to then go on into development."
The final piece of the puzzle was the support from the show's loyal fanbase. After first premiering in 2013, Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries has been sold into 247 territories in 179 countries and was the first Australian series to be remake for the Chinese market.
"They decided to start testing the water with crowd-funding to begin the process of funding the film to show Screen Australia that there was interest in it," Davis says. "The aim was for about $250,000 and they made that in 24 hours.
"The majority of that money came from overseas. It's a phenomenal showing of how passionately the fans were interested in seeing Phryne take to the sky again."
Phryne takes to the skies, literally, in The Crypt of Tears. Set in 1929, it's a globetrotting romp across Jerusalem, the exotic deserts of the Negev and the glamorous manor-house ballrooms and darkened back alleys of London.
"We were at some incredibly romantic locations in Morocco where they were filming The English Patient. I'd never been there before, but I would go back at the drop of a hat," she says. "It's a beautiful country, the people are delightful and there's something quite peaceful and beautiful about it."
After freeing a young woman from her unjust imprisonment in Jerusalem, Phryne begins to unravel a mystery concerning priceless emeralds, ancient curses and the truth behind the suspicious disappearance of her forgotten tribe.
"It's a completely real historical period of the time - a time of unrest in British Palestine when Britain had promised Palestine its independence. It's a great social backdrop to a troubled world," Davis says.
"It's not only a story of social justice and allowing a young political revolutionary to help find out what's happened to her massacred Bedouin tribe, but also that of a young woman who's having to come out in the old-fashioned sense to the word in London and fit into the model of a young debutant. At least she's already got the greatest role model in Phryne."
Nathan Page, Miriam Margolyes, Ashleigh Cummings and Hugo Johnstone-Burt all reprise their roles, while Jacqueline McKenzie, Rupert Penry-Jones and John Waters join the cast.
"Nathan is always delightful. We have a particularly wonderful chemistry and we do make each other laugh constantly, which can be very irritating for the crew sometimes," she says. "It's such a lovely family of people. We were so lucky to have so much of the original cast back, even for a little part, in this film."
Davis hopes Australian fans will make the leap to the big screen and show the support for a sequel.
"One of the most beautiful things in life is to be in a dark room with a group of people and be swept off your feet," she says.
"I really hope people get behind it and seize the opportunity to see that epic landscape on the big screen without any distraction.
"Then we have hope of potentially making another movie. Hopefully Phryne will take the world by storm."
Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears opens in cinemas today.