November 12, 2008 / 1:52 PM / 9 years ago

Baz Luhrmann "up against it" to finish "Australia"

3 Min Read

<p>Oscar-nominated director Baz Luhrmann poses for a portrait in New York, November 11, 2008.Keith Bedford</p>

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Oscar-nominated director Baz Luhrmann's $130-million epic film "Australia" is due to make its world premiere in Sydney on Tuesday -- but the director says he has not finished it yet.

Luhrmann, who was honored at The Museum of Modern Art's Film Benefit in New York on Monday, is flying back to Sydney with a day to spare to complete the film he has spent four years working on.

"I'm going back to the mixing desk to finish it in 24 hours," the Australian director told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday just before he left for the airport.

"It's right on the edge, we're right up against it. I literally have to on Friday night push that button," he said. "This is really dangerous, I hope there's no problem with the plane going back."

Luhrmann said a rough cut of the film, starring Australian actors Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, had so far only been shown to U.S. talk show host Oprah Winfrey and her audience, and "Good Morning America" host Diane Sawyer.

Kidman and Jackman appeared on an episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" on Monday that was dedicated to the film and Winfrey praised the film, saying: "I have not been this excited about a movie since I don't know when."

"Our hearts are all swelling because, my God, it's just the film we needed to see," she told Luhrmann, who appeared on the show via the Internet.

"Australia" is Luhrmann's fourth film. "Strictly Ballroom" (1992), "Romeo + Juliet" (1996) and "Moulin Rouge!" (2001), which was nominated for a best picture Academy Award, have earned $390 million worldwide.

The film tells the tale of an English aristocrat, played by Kidman, who inherits a sprawling Outback property and falls in love with a rugged "drover" or cowboy, played by Jackman.

They join forces to drive 1,500 head of cattle hundreds of miles across stunning yet brutal landscape in a bid to save her property and find themselves caught in the Japanese wartime bombing of Australia's tropical northern city of Darwin.

Luhrmann scoffed at recent media reports that Twentieth Century Fox, owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., had forced him to change the ending of the movie so Jackman's character didn't die because audiences didn't like it.

"You really think that on my films people tell me what to do? I don't think so," he said. "On my films I decide."

"I wrote six endings and I shot three," said Luhrmann, adding that he decided not to use the ending where Jackman's character dies. "There is a death at the end of this film, but it's a surprise how that works."

"Australia" opens in the United States and Australia on November 26 and in Britain on December 26.

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