When staffing national-identity saga “Australia,” it stands to reason that director Baz Luhrmann would select a dream team of Down Under talent, from Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman (playing British) to below-the-line pros like cinematographer Mandy Walker. Walker has since relocated to Los Angeles (thereby avoiding the 24-hour flights required whenever she was called to shoot a commercial in some exotic corner of the northern hemisphere), but the Melbourne-born d.p. is still very much an Aussie at heart.
It was on one globe-trotting adventure that she met Luhrmann and Kidman while shooting a Chanel No. 5 ad spot the pair were working on. As both a homecoming and reunion, “Australia” also marks the largest film on which Walker has ever worked, a project designed to rival the grandeur of epics like “Lawrence of Arabia.”
“Baz wanted to grab what was on location, but then have control on stage, in the style of how they made films like ‘Gone With the Wind,’ but we took a modern approach where we used bluescreen and CGI composites,” Walker explains. “He called it the ‘Lucas-Lean.’ We’d go and get the David Lean part (on location) and then go onstage and do the George Lucas.”
For inspiration, Walker rewatched such national classics as “The Overlanders,” adding her own creative input to Luhrmann’s vision.
“On set, Baz is sort of like a conductor,” she says. “Technicians who are used to just going from A to B are now working on a different level. He draws that out of people, and they love it. I suppose working like that brings the best out of me.”