"Australia" makers vow to protect Aboriginal boy star

Tue Nov 18, 2008 4:27am EST
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By Belinda Goldsmith

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Aged six, Brandon Walters was battling leukemia. At 13, the Aboriginal boy is a new face of Australia, the child star of the epic movie "Australia" whose makers have vowed to protect him from exploitation.

Walters was discovered at a public pool in his home town of Broome in Western Australia and handpicked by director Baz Luhrmann for a pivotal role in the blockbuster film alongside homegrown Hollywood stars Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman.

With deep, brown eyes and a cherubic face, he also features in a A$40 million ($26 million) tourism campaign linked to the film, telling visitors: "Sometimes we gotta go walkabout."

Billed as "Australia's new young star" at a press conference on Tuesday, Walters received applause from his co-stars as he blinked into a sea of flashing cameras and laughter as he admitted he had never heard of Kidman before his casting.

"I felt a bit scared when I first met her," he admitted. Walters had not left the state of Western Australia before joining the movie.

Kidman said she formed strong bonds with Walters during the filming of the movie.

"I feel very protective of him," said Kidman, who celebrated the birth of her daughter Sunday Rose in July with her second husband Keith Urban and also has two adopted children.

"If the film does really well he is going to need a lot of protection," she said, smiling at Walters and constantly reassuring him, stroking and patting his back.   Continued...

<p>Actor Brandon Walters walks to a media event in Sydney on the day of the world premiere of his new film "Australia", November 18, 2008. REUTERS/Tim Wimborne</p>