Romeo + Juliet director Baz Luhrmann is turning his movie Australia into a TV series

Loading

But why would the director of Strictly Ballroom, Red Mill!, The Great Gatsby and the coming Elvis go back to a movie that was such a difficult experience – tough to shoot, difficult to edit and, as the worst of the reviews landed, personally wounding? Why not just let it go and move on?

While Luhrmann is reluctant to go into detail, he describes Australia as a “difficult and paradoxical” experience.

“For various reasons that aren’t worth going into, I never got to finish it ultimately the way I wanted to,” he says while finishing Elvis on the Gold Coast. “It happens to still be my biggest film in Europe so it actually did really well despite the perception.”

Reworking Australia for the series has allowed him to tell a more expansive story.

“I managed to do what I set out to do,” Luhrmann says. “People go ‘well it’s long anyway’ but actually the reason it felt long was a lot of crucial plot material wasn’t in it. And being able to work with a lot of young Indigenous artists, doing the graphics and the music, was really fulfilling.”

Luhrmann says his “great upset” about Australia was the criticism for the way his relationship with the Indigenous community led to attacks on such leaders as academic Marcia Langton, who described the movie as giving Australians a new past – “a myth of national origin that is disturbing, thrilling, heartbreaking, hilarious and touching”.

Australia stars (from left) Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Brandon Walters and David Gulpilil.Credit:PA

Germaine Greer attacked Langton in print for welcoming “a fraudulent and misleading fantasy … possibly because the fantasy is designed to promote the current government policy of reconciliation, of which she is a chief propose”.

Luhrmann steers clear of attacking Greer by name. “I can’t get bitter or angry,” he says. “The press, commentators, do their job: some are good at it, some are not good at it.”

Hulu is yet to announce Faraway Downs so it is not clear how many hours the series will add to Australia‘s two hours 45 minutes.

Loading

Fourteen years ago, Luhrmann came under intense pressure to finish the movie, which had a shoot lasting nine months and a huge number of visual effects shots, after Fox executives refused repeated requests to postpone the release.

It ended up as his last movie for the studio after a successful relationship that included Romeo + Juliet and Red Mill!with The Great Gatsby and now Elvis backed by Warner Bros.

“I would have begged them to put it back probably once a week for a year,” Luhrmann said at the time. While he felt the romance was working “from the moment Hugh took Nicole up in his arms”, he wanted more time to get the rest of the movie in shape.

“It’s the other parts of the storytelling that need all the work – just the sheer scale and the mechanics of the storytelling,” he said.

Find out the next TV, streaming series and movies to add to your must-sees. Get The Watchlist delivered every Thursday.

Email the writer at gmaddox@smh.com.au and follow him on Twitter at @gmaddox.

Leave a Comment