Travelling North

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Travelling North
Directed by Carl Schultz
Produced by Ben Gannon
Written by David Williamson
Starring Leo McKern
Julia Blake
Graham Kennedy
Music by Alan John
Cinematography Julian Penney
Edited by Henry Dangar
Distributed by Cineplex Odeon Films
Release date
  • 19 June 1987 (1987-06-19) (U.S.)
  • 23 July 1987 (1987-07-23) (Australia)
Running time
96 minutes
Country Australia
Language English
Budget AU$2.5 million[1][2]
Box office AU$1,464,000 (Australia)

Travelling North is a 1987 film directed by Carl Schultz based on an original 1979 play of the same name by David Williamson. It is one of Williamson's favourite movies based on his works.[3]


An aged couple decide to move from Melbourne to north Queensland.


The David Williamson play Travelling North premiered in 1979, the year that Williamson moved from Melbourne to Sydney. Williamson says the inspiration for the play came soon after he met his second wife Kristin and she took him up to the Central Coast of New South Wales to visit her mother Hope. Hope had recently remarried an older man called Wilkie. Williamson:

There was more than a little hint of disapproval from her two daughters about the new liaison, which I used in the play, but I found them an inspiring couple. Wilkie was a ferociously intelligent man, a former electrical engineer and ex-communist with pronounced opinions on just about everything. Hope was gentler but with a wonderful quality of perception and understanding. They both impressed me and, some years later, the image of them both living in a verdant, sunlit subtropical paradise re-entered my mind and became Travelling North. In fact, by the time I wrote it, Wilkie had died. I asked Hope whether I could write the play and she trusted me and was most cooperative. She told me anecdotes about a busybody neighbour who had annoyed the hell out of Wilkie and a long-suffering doctor who had to answer Wilkie's probing questions about the quality of treatment he was delivering. These characters found their way into the story. I think Hope genuinely liked the play, but my wife Kristin and her sister were a little less enthusiastic, particularly when Frank, in the play, refers to them as "Goneril and Regan".[4]

"This play was not to do with me, and there was no ‘me’ character in it,” he later said. “It was a dispassionate – hopefully – observation of a journey we all must make. I tried to make it as truthful, emotionally, as I could.”[5]

The film was not made until eight years later, with Williamson adapting his own play into a script.


Ben Gannon optioned film rights to the play and hired Leo McKern to play the lead. It was intended that Michael Blakemore direct but after casting was completed he dropped out and was replaced by Carl Schultz. Warren Mitchell was originally cast as the local doctor but was replaced by Henri Szeps.[1]

The film was shot in Port Douglas, Queensland, in July and August 1986.[1] Much of the superb atmosphere of the film was created by the choice of music - the heart-rending slow movement from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's String Quintet No. 4 - which was used repeatedly throughout


At the AFI Awards the film won the categories Best Actor in a Lead Role (Leo McKern) and Best Adapted Screenplay (David Williamson). Julia Blake was nominated. Montréal World Film Festival awarded the Best Actor award to Leo McKern.

Box office

Travelling North grossed $1,464,000 at the box office in Australia,[6] which is equivalent to $2,942,640 in 2009 dollars.

See also


  1. ^ a b c David Stratton, The Avocado Plantation: Boom and Bust in the Australian Film Industry, Pan MacMillan, 1990 p189-191
  2. ^ "Australian Productions Top $175 million", Cinema Papers, March 1986 p64
  3. ^ Greg Gallaghan, "10 questions - David Williamson", The Australian 18 December 2010 accessed 5 April 2014
  4. ^ "Q&A: David Williamson", Sydney Theatre Company 13 September 2013 accessed 3 August 2014
  5. ^
  6. ^ Film Victoria - Australian Films at the Australian Box Office

External links

  • Travelling North on IMDb
  • Travelling North at the Australian screen
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