“The Water Diviner” has already won three Academy Awards and been tops at the box office, but those victories came Down Under. The Australian-made period picture debuted in Hollywood Thursday night, with high hopes from cast and crew that their winning streak will continue on American soil.
Star Russell Crowe, who makes his directorial debut in the story about a man coping with the losses of war, called it “a much more intimate thing” to be helming a movie for the first time.
He expressed high hopes for a box office breakthrough in America to go with the film’s success in Australia, where it was the top-grossing home-grown movie of 2014. “The Water Diviner” has made $12 million so far worldwide, on a budget of $22.5 million.
“It’s three years of my life and that’s what’s on the line,” Crowe said outside the TCL Chinese Theatre. “The two things that come out of this, if it gets a [good] commercial result, is simply the investors I have will roll over their original investment. And I’ll get to do it again.”
Crowe didn’t say what he’d like to make his next project, but he said he enjoyed the control that came with directing and, as the father of two sons, liked the ability to keep production and post-production closer to his Australian home.
“The Water Diviner” is about a father’s search for his sons in the aftermath of World War I’s Battle of Gallipoli. The period piece arrives more than 30 years after the film “Gallipoli,” Peter Weir’s critically acclaimed look at the same seminal event, a battle that left more than 10,000 Australians and New Zealanders dead.
Crowe called his film an “unintentional companion piece” to the Weir classic, which ended with one of the protagonists being shot as he went “over the top” during brutal trench warfare. “The Water Diviner” tracks a father, played by Crowe, as he searches for three sons lost in the same battle.
The film is based on an original screenplay and was produced by Andrew Mason, Troy Lum and Keith Rodger. Executive producers were James Packer and Brett Ratner. Warner Brothers is distributing in the U.S., with the film opening April 24 in about 80 markets.
Among the others joining Crowe on the red carpet Thursday was Yilmaz Erdogan, the Turkish-born actor and filmmaker, who won the Australian Academy Award in January for best supporting actor for his role as a Turkish officer. (The film also shared best film honors in the Australian awards and won another honor for best costume design.)
Erdogan recalled that he had been outside the Hollywood theater before; he came as a tourist 10 years earlier and was blocked behind the barricades with the rest of the fans, across the street from the landmark Chinese Theatre.
“It was a Tom Hanks movie. I saw Tom Hanks that day,” Erdogan recalled. “And I said, ‘Okay, maybe we can come here someday again.’ And here I am!”
(Pictured: Keith Rodger, Andrew Mason, Russell Crowe and Brett Ratner at “The Water Diviner” premiere)