Julia Roberts and George Clooney Rom-Com Shuts Down Production Over COVID Surge

Ticket to Paradise, a new romantic comedy starring Julia Roberts, George Clooney, and Kaitlyn Dever, is on hold after a rise in coronavirus cases in Queensland, Australia, where cameras were rolling. The production was reportedly only two weeks away from completion. Clooney and Roberts flew back to the U.S. after the pause.

Production started last year at multiple locations in Queensland and it was very close to being finished, reports Variety. Local reports claimed the film will be shut down for three months, but it is not known when Clooney and Roberts could reunite to film the rest. One source told the Daily Mail Australia that people were "dropping like flies" as the Omicron coronavirus variant spread among the staff. Another source said Clooney already shaved off the beard he grew for the film before he left Australia. Some members of the international crew have stayed in Queensland for another two weeks.

The film's story is set in Bali, but producers chose to film in Australia to avoid the COVID spread in Indonesia. Ticket to Paradise used locations in Brisbane, the Gold Coast, and the Whitsundays. The Australian federal government gave the production a $6.4 million grant, and Arts Minister Paul Fletcher said last year the film would generate at least 270 jobs in the state.

When the production picked Queensland to film in March 2021, the film industry was booming there, notes Variety. The state quickly put in workplace safety measures and offered financial help to draw international productions just like Ticket to Paradise. Queensland also had strict border controls to stop earlier coronavirus variants. However, once the internal controls were lifted, Queensland saw a big jump in coronavirus cases and related deaths linked to the Omicron variant. On Tuesday alone, Queensland officials reported 18 deaths and over 15,000 new infections, reports 9 News.

Ticket to Paradise stars Clooney and Roberts as divorced parents who try to stop their daughter Lily (Dever) from marrying a local man in Bali after her college graduation. Billie Lourd co-stars as Lily's friend Wren, who also finds love in Bali. Ol Parker (Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again) directed the movie and co-wrote the script with Daniel Pipski. Universal Pictures scheduled the film's release for Oct. 21, 2022, but that seems unlikely with a potential three-month delay.