Australia pins high hopes on its most costly movie

Sun Nov 16, 2008 11:46pm EST
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By Belinda Goldsmith

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Amid a blaze of publicity, Australia rolls out its most expensive ever movie on Tuesday, hoping the grandly named epic "Australia" will attract overseas investors to revive the local film industry and also tourists.

Billed as a cross between "Out Of Africa" and "Gone With The Wind," the nearly three-hour romantic adventure with home-grown Hollywood stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman is reported to have cost Rupert Murdoch's 20th Century Fox about US$130 million.

"Australia" is a World War Two drama about an English aristocrat who travels to Australia and joins forces with a cattle "drover" or cowboy and an Aboriginal child to drive a herd of cattle across the stunning, rugged Australian landscape.

Geoff Brown, executive director of the Screen Producers' Association of Australia, said the industry hoped director Baz Luhrmann's film draw in investors and lure moviegoers back to Australian movies after a string of bleak, box-office flops.

"This is a truly cinematic film, a real epic, filmed in 1940s style. We just haven't had the opportunity to show our wares on this scale before," Brown told Reuters.

"This is the marketing tool for Australian film. It's an Australian film from beginning to end, shot in Australia with an Australian cast, crew, special effects, lighting, even director, and we are seeing this as a calling card to the world."

Tourism Australia has spent A$50 million (US$32 million) on an advertising campaign and promotions linked to the film, aiming to make Australia a coveted destination as the global financial crisis hits tourism, as "Crocodile Dundee" did in the 1980s.

The campaign received a major boost last week when influential U.S. talk show host Oprah Winfrey described it as "the best movie I've seen in a long, long, long, long time."   Continued...

<p>Nicole Kidman (C) is surrounded by fans in this 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Issei Kato</p>