Don Groves is a Deadline contributor based in Sydney.

Wolverine Viper RoleThe Wolverine starts shooting at the Fox Studios in Sydney next week with no indication yet of who will play the Viper alongside Hugh Jackman in the title role of the 20th Century Fox tentpole. At a media conference here, director James Mangold insisted Jessica Biel was only ever in talks for the role of the mutant villain — she withdrew last week — and deflected questions on whether Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy star Svetlana Khodchenkova would get the part. Acknowledging that the Australian government’s $A12.8 million grant was an added inducement to shoot in Sydney, Jackman said, “I think on the balance sheet side of things it’s a win-win. What you can’t quantify is the skills, is the confidence, is keeping Australia as world-class as we are in filmmaking. Not just in acting but as crews… any industry we can really nurture or encourage — which is about knowledge, is about skills.”

Prime Minister Julia Gillard confirmed the government is considering calls by the Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance to increase the 16.5% location offset for international films such as the X-Men spinoff, which shoot Down Under to 30% to compensate for the strength of the Oz dollar against the greenback. “Hugh has certainly spoken to me about the importance of this for getting these big movies here in Australia,” Gillard told reporters. “It’s something that (Arts) Minister (Simon) Crean is working his way through as he deals with our cultural policy.”