Culture / TV

‘Boy Swallows Universe’ has what is quite possibly the most Australian cast ever

boy swallows universe series

Is there a single person in this country who has not read Trent Dalton's Boy Swallows Universe? Even those who manage one book a year during the Christmas holidays chose this Australian best-seller above others. Published in 2018, Dalton's debut novel about coming-of-age in 1980s Brisbane amidst drug-dealers and criminals tugged on people's heartstrings and ripped them apart in equal measure. And now, Eli Bell's story is getting refashioned for television with an outsized cast to match, thanks to Netflix.

What is Boy Swallows Universe About?

Part fiction, part autobiography, Boy Swallows Universe opens with the 12-year-old Eli Bell who, although still a child is street smart and observant. Furnishing the tale with pieces from his own tumultuous upbringing, Dalton writes of Eli Bell, who lives surrounded by violence everyday in 80s working class Brisbane. His mother is an addict and his second-tier heroin dealing stepfather is no good. Then there's Slim, a notorious felon and something of a father-figure to Eli and his mute older brother Gus. The book is essentially a crime novel, but it's also about coming-of-age, first love and brotherhood too, with a streak of magical realism thrown in for good measure.

We can safely assume that this is what the Netflix series adaptation will be about. But we'll be on the lookout for an official log line.

Who has been cast?

An Australian novel needs the perfect Australian cast and it certainly looks like Netflix has found it. Tapped for the role of brothers Eli and Gus is Felix Cameron and Lee Tiger Halley. Phoebe Tonkin has secured the role of the boys' mother, while Travis Fimmel who played the handsome Ragnar in Vikings is onboard as the violent heroin-dealing stepfather Lyle Orlik.

Simon Baker will play Eli's absent father Robert Bell, meanwhile icons of Australian cinema Bryan Brown, Anthony LaPaglia and Deborah Mailman are set to star in the series too. Sophie Wilde, who we loved in Eden and BBC series You Don't Know Me will also feature in the adaptation.

Is there a release date?

Although we know the series is currently in production in Brisbane, with John Collee at its helm, there's no word yet on a premiere date. Watch this space.


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