Australia (2008)

Director: Baz Luhrmann
Writer: Baz Luhrmann, Richard Flanagan, Ronald Harwood, Stuart Beattie

Cast: Nicole Kidman (Lady Sarah Ashley), Hugh Jackman (Drover), David Wenham (Neil Fletcher), Bryan Brown (Leslie “King” Carney), Jack Thompson (Kipling Flynn), David Gulpilil (King George), Brandon Walters (Nullah), Ray Barrett (Ramsen), David Ngoombujara (Magarri), Ben Mendelsohn (Captain Emmett Dutton), Sandy Gore (Gloria Carney), Essie Davis (Catherine “Cath” Carney Fletcher), Bary Otto (Administrator Allsop), Ursula Yovich (Daisy), Yuen Wah (Sing Song), Bruce Spence (Dr. Barker), Jacek Koman (Ivan), Tony Barry (Sergeant Callahan), Angus Pilakui (Goolaj Baloong)

Genres: Adventure, Drama, History, Romance, War
Released: November 26, 2008 (USA)
Running time: 165 minutes
MPAA: PG-13 — some violence, a scene of sensuality, brief strong language

In northern Australia at the beginning of World War II, an English aristocrat inherits a cattle station the size of Maryland. When English cattle barons plot to take her land, she reluctantly joins forces with a rough-hewn stock-man to drive 2,000 head of cattle across hundreds of miles of the country’s most unforgiving land, only to still face the bombing of Darwin, Australia, by the Japanese forces that had attacked Pearl Harbor only months earlier.

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» Trivia

• Russell Crowe was attached as the lead during pre-production. 20th Century Fox executives wanted to reduce Crowe’s salary considerably, in order to appease the film’s budget. This decision compelled him to ultimately leave the project.

• Nicole Kidman saved Hugh Jackman from a poisonous scorpion on the set of their new movie. While the actress was about to join Hugh in the bag, she noticed the poisonous scorpion crawling up his leg. She calmly told him not to move and squatted down, scooped the arachnid into her hat and walked over to the woods and released it. Everyone applauded but was asked why she hadn’t just stomped on it. She said, “I would never kill an animal. Every creature here has its purpose. This one just didn’t belong in Hugh’s bag!”

• Filming on the project finally began in spring 2007 and went on for nine hard months. Baz Luhrmann approached the filming with obsessive resolve. He constantly shot and re-shot scenes until he got it just the way he wanted. This obsessive attention to detail caused the project to go over budget and caused several scheduling problems. To further the production’s difficulties, Australia itself was not very cooperative. On one occasion, the largest and most expensive of the sets for the film was completely flooded when huge rain showers hit a part of the country that rarely gets any rain at all. On other occasions, filming had to be delayed for days on end because of bad weather or poor lighting. Every delay was especially costly on this project, since Luhrmann employed hundreds of crew members and had a herd of fifteen hundred cattle that needed to be fed and cared for. This completely drained the budget allotted for the movie and production had to be improvised. Director was forced to go begging for more money and certain compromises had to be made. He even had to move the filming of the final scenes of the movie from Darwin, where they were supposed to take place, to Bowen because the local government provided him with 500,000 dollars to film there.

• Over 1500 wild horses were used for this movie

• It took nine months to finish the movie’s principal photography. Some reshoots were made in late 2008.

• No fewer than 15 babies were born to cast and crew, one being Nicole Kidman’s daughter, during the course of the very long production.

• Even though the filming schedule was pushed back a half year, Nicole Kidman never lost her faith in the project and instead prepared for the role, by touring the country with her family, riding horses and even castrating bulls.

• Heath Ledger was originally cast, but backed out to do The Dark Knight:

• Nicole Kidman revealed that she agreed to star in the film without reading the script. Hugh Jackman stated in an interview for “60 Minutes,” which aired on Sunday the 16th of October 2008, that Nicole told Hugh he had to be in the movie at a Super Bowl party, and when Hugh told her he didn’t even have a script Nicole told him to forget the script, because Baz Luhrmann was directing.

• The film’s AUD$100M budget reportedly increased to more than AUD$150M.

• Brandon Walters was discovered by Baz Luhrmann, who had been searching for a young boy to play the important role of Nullah for over 12 months, through a series of nationwide radio call outs in Australia. After a series of workshops at Fox Studios Australia, Luhrmann and his team traveled to Broome and had the privilege of camping with Walter’s family at 80 Mile Beach, WA. It was during this time that Luhrmann and the family decided they would take the leap and become involved in the film together.

• The orchestral score heard when Lady Ashley travels from England to Australia is an obvious homage to Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Hunting Cantata” (BWV 208), especially the aria “Sheep may safely graze”. Interestingly, Australian composer Percy Grainger used this cantata as a source of inspiration for some of his own compositions (Blithe Bells, 1931).

• The word “billabong” is often mentioned in the movie, including regarding the key scene in which Lord Ashley is murdered. “Billabong” is an Australian term for a small lake, especially (but not only) one formed by a U-shaped bend in a river.

» Quotes

Drover: We’re not really used to…
Lady Sarah Ashley: A woman? I suppose you think I should be back in Darwin, at the church fête or a lady’s whatever you call it. Well I will have you know, I am as capable as any man.
Drover: Guests. We’re not used to guests is what I was about to say but now that you mention it I happen to quite like the women of the outback.

Lady Sarah Ashley: Just because it is, doesn’t mean it should be.
[later]
Drover: Just because it is, doesn’t mean it should be.

Lady Sarah Ashley: Let’s go home.
Drover: There’s no place like it.

Nullah: Mama say, I Galapa. I magic-man. I wizard-man!

Drover: [to Ivan] Serve him a fuckin’ drink.

Nullah: Missus Boss, I sing you to me.
Lady Sarah Ashley: And I will hear you, my darling!

Magarri: If you’ve got no love in your heart, you’ve got nothing… No dreaming, not story, nothing.

» Watch The Trailer

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