Miranda Otto and All-Star Cast Bring Chilling Doomsday Cult Story to Life in The Clearing

WHO sit down with the stellar Aussie cast
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There was a moment while filming The Clearing that made Miranda Otto, a veteran actress with vast experience, stop and take stock. As she looked around at the cast and crew assembled for the shoot in rural Victoria, she thought, “Wow! Look at our team! We’ve got a female stunt coordinator. We’ve got a female DP [cinematographer] on-set today. We’ve got a female producer, female assistant, my sister, Gracie, directing and then we’ve got a female writer,” she recalls to WHO.

“There was a really strong creative team of women involved with this that … really gave me a thrill.”

Watch Below: The Clearing | Official Teaser | Disney+

What also lay before Otto’s eyes was a powerhouse of players brought together to film the first Australian series to launch on streamer Disney+. Otto, 55, as Adrienne Beaufort, the glamorous leader of the cult The Kindred, heads a cast of top local talent, including Claudia Karvan, 51, Kate Mulvany, 46, Teresa Palmer, 37, Guy Pearce, 55, and teen newcomer Julia Savage, 16.

The psychological thriller is adapted from J.P. Pomare’s bestseller In the Clearing, which in turn was inspired by the real-life Australian doomsday cult The Family, based in the countryside outside of Melbourne in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. 

For Otto, the top-tier female representation on this production was noteworthy, but she says Australia has always been ahead of the pack in that regard. Karvan agrees, having also been fortunate enough to consistently work in an inclusive and nurturing environment. 

But as WHO sat down with the key cast during our exclusive access and backstage shoot, it became clear that what was created with this collection of creatives was unique and something special. Despite, or perhaps because of, the dark subject matter (the physical and psychological abuse of children in a cult), they formed a bond to last a lifetime.

The Clearing
A stellar cast unites to create an Aussie thriller. (Credit: WHO/Phillip Castleton)

“To be surrounded by inspiring creative female energy, it felt like that was the right ground to breed this special story,” Palmer, who adeptly plays cult survivor Freya, explains. “And to have the vulnerability and fragility that these characters needed, which also coexists with their strengths and just inherently being female, it was such a wonderful thing. I think it was necessary to surround this project with all these wonderful talented females.” 

Mulvany, who is brilliant as the brutal Aunty Tamsin and shot most of her scenes opposite Otto and the young cast of cult members, described the time on set “as so beautiful”, with the production team and directors, Gracie Otto and Jeffrey Walker, ensuring the set was fun, warm and generous.

“They were the most extraordinary performers I’ve ever worked with,” Mulvany enthuses. “A lot of the time was spent playing magic tricks … drinking hot chocolate and telling funny jokes, and it was just the most beautiful environment. It was such a joy to be around [the young actors’] spirits. And getting to work with Miranda, who is terrifying in this … I’ve long been a fan of hers and her incredible family, so it was a dream come true to work with her because she is such a delight. I could see her imparting her knowledge to these young actors and I hope I did, too.”

The Clearing
The Clearing streams on Disney+ (Credit: WHO/Phillip Castleton)

And while the more experienced actors were able to share their experience with the newcomers, the exchange of knowledge and ideas flowed both ways.

“Julia’s a real team player … it was incredible to be reminded of that joy,” Mulvany says of her young co-star. “She is more than one to watch – we are all watching her at the moment. Her professionalism blew me away and she became a dear friend.”

For Savage, it was a blessing to be surrounded by such talent.“It was such an insane privilege,” says the teen, who is mesmerising in her role of child cult member Amy.

“It was the craziest, best opportunity I’ve ever had. Working with so many female actors and cast and crew members was really amazing. It’s a really special story and I’m so grateful that I got to be a part of it and work with women who have such illustrious careers.”

The Clearing
Palmer says her co-star Otto “needs to win all the awards for this…She plays this character from age 30 through to her eighties, so it’s unbelievable how nuanced that performance has to be. It’s the performance of a lifetime.” (Credit: Disney)

Stream The Clearing now on Disney Plus with a mth-to-mth no lock-in contract. Subscribe here.

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