What to Expect: Australia has always been a place of opportunities and second chances for many British subjects. Its great natural beauty, breathtaking landscapes and wide open space have captured the hearts of millions through the last few centuries. Unfortunately, it has always been overshadowed by Britain's other little colonial project, America. Consequently, Australia has been nothing more than a footnote in both history and popular culture to the chagrin of Australia's proud people. Now these very same people and their government are making a conscious effort to spotlight Australia on the international stage. That effort is probably best exemplified in film by one of Australia's best known directors, Baz Luhrmann. Baz has brought together many of the country's best known actors and a tremendous budget exceeding one hundred million dollars to create an epic movie that captures the beauty and the heart of Australia. The director and the cast were all driven by their shared love and pride of their country to create a timeless epic that will capture the imagination of all that see it.
Bringing this picture to the big screen was almost as epic as the story itself. Luhrmann has always wanted to do work on a larger-than-large project with Australia as its setting, but could never get the backing. With the help of screen writers Ronald Harwood, Stuart Beattie and Richard Flanagan, Luhrmann wrote the script for his great epic, which tells the tale of a British aristocrat, Lady Sarah Ashley, who is unhappy with her life and suspects her husband of cheating on her. She follows her husband to Australia hoping to catch him in the act, but upon her arrival learns that he has died, and the only asset she has is a huge ranch with 2000 heads of cattle. To make matters worse, the other ranchers in the area plot to take her new property over. Now she is in a foreign land with little resources and hostile neighbors, until a young rover named Nullah takes pity on her. He helps her drive her herd across the country to Darwin. They encounter many obstacles along the way including the Japanese bombing of Darwin. In the process, Ashley falls in love with Nullah and the natural beauty of the land. She conquers all of her obstacles and gets a second chance at life and love.
Luhrmann pitched this movie to various studios as the "Titanic on land" until he got a green light from Fox studios. Fox gave him $130 million to launch his project. Luhrmann wanted this film to be totally Australian, courting the big stars of the country. He easily cast Australia's lesser known actors like Bryan Brown, Jack Thompson, Bruce Spence, Bill Hunter, John Jarratt, David Gulpilil, and Ray Barrett. These guys are like a who's who of Australian cinema, but are not well known outside the continent, so they were all eager to participate in this project. The bigger challenge was getting some of the Australia's superstars to be a part of it. First he approached Nicole Kidman for the role of Lady Ashley. Kidman was very excited saying it has always been her dream to bring her country to the big screen and was glad to work in natural surroundings instead of in front of a green screen. Despite Kidman's excitement and her proven track record, this was very risky casting because Kidman is at that scary age of 40. Very few actresses, i.e. Merryl Streep, Glen Close, actually make it over this hump to continue making quality movies, while most are forced into an early "made for TV movie" retirement. I honestly believe that Kidman is one of the select few talented enough to keep going, but her last two movies, The Invasion and The Golden Compass have both done poorly at the box office, but that was not her fault. Both projects were doomed from the start. This part is one she is definitely more suited for her. It is very similar to her character in Far and Away, where she is also an aristocrat who falls for a commoner and starts a new life in a new land. After recruiting the best known female Australian actor, Luhrmann went after the most famous male, Russell Crowe, and that is when the troubles started. Crowe bickered with Luhrmann from the start, demanding more money and final script approval. Crowe claimed he did not want to work under the budgetary constraints placed on the project claiming that "he does charity work, just not for big studios". Luhrmann got tired of haggling with Crowe and cast Australia's other big name actor, Hugh Jackman, for the part. At this point Crowe decided to be more accommodating and dropped some of his demands including script review. However, Luhrmann was fed up and told him to buzz off. Crowe would have made a great Australian cowboy, but Hugh Jackman is not much of a downgrade. The one major problem with all of the Crowe drama was the fact that when all was said and done, filming had been delayed by over a year. In the meantime Kidman never lost her faith in this project. Instead of moving on to other films, she spent the time preparing for the job by touring the country with her family, riding horses and even castrating bulls.
Filming on the project finally began in spring 2007 and went on for nine hard months. 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. It is actually pretty common for films such as these to go over budget and over schedule. Who could forget when James Cameron had to use his own money to finish off Titanic and we all know that worked out in the end, and I am sure this project will do the same.
(excerpt from worstpreviews.com)