Nicole Kidman has returned home to Australia to star in her latest epic romantic adventure film Australia, directed by Baz (Moulin Rouge) Luhrmann and co-starring fellow Australian Hugh Jackman. The filmography of the 41-year-old Oscar-winning actress include To Die For, Moulin Rouge!, The Hours, Cold Mountain and The Golden Compass.
Ironically, Kidman doesn't get to play an Aussie. The stars as English aristocrat Lady Sarah Ashley set in northern Australia during World War II. When Lady Ashley arrives in the outback to take over a sprawling ranch she has inherited, she reluctantly makes a pact with a cattle drover (Hugh Jackman) to protect her new property from a takeover plot by cattle baron King Carney (Bryan Brown). This leads the pair, along with a young Aboriginal boy, Nullah (Brandon Davis), to drive 2,000 head of cattle over unforgiving landscape to Darwin, where they experience firsthand the bombing of that city by Japanese forces.
Q: What does this movie mean to you?
A: It's a movie I dreamed I would be able to make as a little Australian girl. I wanted to make a film in Australia about Australia and even though this is not an historical or political film, it has an essence in the same way as the films I grew up on like Gallipoli, Man from Snowy River and My Brilliant Career and all those films that molded me.
Q: What do you think is the appeal of this film outside Australia?
A: Probably just to watch the scenes that Baz consistently chooses in his movies, because he is deeply romantic about family, land, love and a sense of freedom in terms of setting people free: you can't possess someone, you have to let them come back to you or walk away. Those sorts of themes are very universal. It's epic in its sensibility but it is very simple and fun, and set against landscapes in a country that hasn't been really explored on this level before.
Q: What can you say about Lady Ashley's journey in this film?
A: Well I play English, which is ironic, to go back to Australia to play an Englishwoman! But I become sort of what the essence of an Australian is, which is I think a survivor. I get stripped of all my barriers and pretenses and get stripped down and become this very raw, sensitive available human being. The film starts in a place of humor as far as Lady Ashley coming to Australia and not being ready for what she has to deal with.
Q: What kind of preparation did you have to do?
A: I have ridden horses all my life but I'd never learned to crack a stock whip and I'd certainly never learned to do any cutting, which is what you do with cattle on a horse. So I had to work hard at that, but at the same time I didn't need to do much else working with Baz because he and I have a language that is very established. He doesn't even have to talk to me and I understand him. He can just breathe and I know what his breathing means.
Q: How was it working with the cattle?
A: At first it was terrifying but then it was addictive. To be up in Kununurra (northern Australia) in this extreme heat on the salt flats, riding and rounding up and cutting cattle, when else am I ever going to get the chance to do that? When I arrived in Kununurra and felt the harshness of that land and the heat, I thought I'd last two days there. But at the end of shooting there for two months, I was looking around to buy property so that's how that land and that area captivated me. I hope more people go up there and see it because it's uncharted territory even for a lot of Australians. This is the equivalent of Africa in its own beautiful Australian way.
Q: How was your relationship with the Aboriginal child in the film that plays your surrogate son, Nullah (Brandon Davis)?
A: He is just a magical child and his whole family is very magical. He has some special thing that orbits around him and we were very lucky to find him because he's not an actor, so capturing him on screen, you had to grab the moments and what I call the glimpses of his soul.
Q: Were you a fellow actor, friend or mother on set with him?
A: I think I was all those things rolled into one but he could make my day just by coming up and throwing his arms around me and hugging me. That melted me. I love affection and that's why I love working with children because they are openly affectionate if you get them at the right age. He has such childlike qualities even though he's entering the phase of becoming a young man but he was still in those moments of being a child.
Australia opens January 28 in theaters nationwide from 20th Century Fox to be distributed by Warner Bros.
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by posted on January 14, 2009