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Disney+ Is Turning the Story of Aussie Cult The Family Into Star-Studded Thriller 'The Clearing'

Claudia Karvan, Guy Pearce, Miranda Otto, Teresa Palmer and Mark Coles-Smith lead the stacked cast for this eight-part series, which follows a woman confronting her nightmarish past.
By Sarah Ward
July 27, 2022
By Sarah Ward
July 27, 2022

Some stories are so wild that they can only be true, and the tale of Australian cult The Family is definitely one of them. That's worth remembering when it finally becomes your next homegrown streaming obsession — in fact, you probably won't be able to forget it — with Disney+ taking inspiration from the sinister Aussie sect for a new eight-part series called The Clearing.

If you're new to The Family — and you didn't see the excellent and supremely creepy 2016 documentary that shares the cult's name, or the 2019 series The Cult of the Family, both by filmmaker Rosie Jones — then strap yourself in for quite the story. It was very real, forming in the 1960s around Melbourne, with charismatic yoga teacher Anne Hamilton-Byrne at its head.

A cult run by a woman is already extremely rare, but this tale also includes adopting kids who looked identical, dressing them in matching clothing, claiming that Hamilton-Byrne was a living god and, because that's not enough, a lot of LSD. Police raided the sect's Lake Eildon compound back in 1987, all those children were removed from the property, and Hamilton-Byrne and her husband fled Australia, but were arrested in the US in 1993.

The Family

There's more to this tale, which inspired JP Pomare's novel In the Clearing — and that's what The Clearing adapts. The show will step into the fictionalised but still chaotic details by following a woman who starts to confront her nightmarish past to stop a secret cult that's gathering up children to serve its master plan. Unsurprisingly, the mood will be tense, with the Disney+ series firmly a psychological thriller.

Cast-wise, almost every famous Aussie acting name possible is involved, or so it seems, including Teresa Palmer (Ride Like a Girl), Miranda Otto (True Colours) and Guy Pearce (Mare of Easttown), as well as Claudia Karvan (Bump) and Mark Coles-Smith (Mystery Road: Origin).

Also set to appear on-screen: Hazem Shammas (The Twelve), Kate Mulvany (Hunters), Xavier Samuel (Elvis), Anna Lise Phillips (Fires), Harry Greenwood (Wakefield) Erroll Shand (The Justice of Bunny King), Doris Younane (Five Bedrooms), Miah Madden (Dive Club), Julia Savage (Mr Inbetween), Gary Sweet (Wentworth), Alicia Gardiner (Offspring), Matt Okine (The Other Guy) and Jeremy Blewitt (The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart), plus Lily La Torre (Run Rabbit Run) and Ras-Samuel Welda'abzgi (Neighbours). We told you it was a hefty list.

The Cult of the Family

Behind the lens, Jeffrey Walker (Lambs of God) and Gracie Otto (Seriously Red) are on directing duties, with Elise McCredie (Stateless) and Matt Cameron (Jack Irish) creating and writing The Clearing — with help from co-writer Osamah Sami (Ali's Wedding).

The Clearing is one of Disney+'s first three newly commissioned local scripted dramas — its first three ever, in fact — alongside The Artful Dodger and Last Days of the Space Age.

There's obviously no trailer for The Clearing yet, but you can check out the trailer for The Family below:

The Clearing will stream via Disney+, with a release date yet to be revealed — we'll update you with further details when they're announced.

Top image: The Cult of the Family.

Published on July 27, 2022 by Sarah Ward
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