‘Australia’ premieres in Sydney

Patriotic mood pervades after-party

SYDNEY — The world preem of “Australia” on Tuesday took on the air of a patriotic celebration, with Hugh Jackman belting out the ballad “I Still Call Australia Home” to huge applause at the after-party.

Until that happened, at the stroke of midnight, the 3,700 invited guests who watched the Fox pic unspool at Greater Union’s George St. plex and then caught buses through spring rain to the new Ivy Hotel in Sydney, hadn’t been united in their response.

The most anticipated, most ambitious and most expensive Australian film ever made was generally enthusiastically received but Aussies were always going to be a tough audience.

Story of an English lady who, despite intending only a brief visit to sell her assets, falls in love with Australia and stays on during the Pacific War stars Nicole Kidman opposite Jackman as a rugged cattleman.

Shot on a vast canvas in a style that blends classic Westerns, romance and epic war pics, “Australia” renders Oz in a cinematic style as it has never been seen before.

Kidman told a media conference earlier in the day “Rarely do you get to make a film that you’ve dreamed of doing since you were little, which is to be part of the Australian cinema. I haven’t really had a film that’s done that in a big way.”

Kidman, Jackman, David Wenham, Jack Thompson, David Gulpilil and tyke Brandon Walters tub-thumped at the preem with helmer Baz Luhrmann, designer Catherine Martin and a good representation of pic’s extensive cast and crew.

After 75 minutes on the red carpet speeches began on time; problem was they were only held in one of the 11 full cinemas. Guests in the other cinemas expecting a feed of the intro instead endured looped video of the electronic press kit for 25 minutes until pic unspooled. This despite Fox having shut down the entire 16-plex in downtown Sydney for 48 hours prior to the premiere to ensure no technical glitches occurred.

Luhrmann reportedly said he wanted the night to be really casual and it was. The expansive and generous after party didn’t feature a VIP area, instead the principals, mingled with family and friends including Lachlan and Sarah Murdoch, Kenny Ortega, Fox brass, Oz pols, media, cast and crew.

Simultaneous premieres were staged where pic was shot in Darwin, Kununurra in Western Australia and Bowen in Queensland. In a filmed tribute shown to the Bowen audience before the screening Luhrmann said, “This is your Australia.”

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