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Australia (2008)

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Details Release Date: Nov 26, 2008; Rated: PG-13; Length: 165 Minutes; Genres: Drama, War, Western; With: Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman; Distributor: 20th Century Fox Film Corporation

Starring: Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman
Directed by: Baz Luhrmann
Release date: November 26

No one can accuse Baz Luhrmann of slacking. In Australia, he's trying to revive the old-school Hollywood epic with a World War II-era romantic Western about an uptight English aristocrat (Kidman) who journeys into the outback and falls for a handsome, lonesome-dove cattle herder (Jackman). It's a big, unruly mash-up of genres, made all the more challenging by Luhrmann's compulsion to constantly tweak the film to fit his current state of mind — not to mention current events. ''I've done a variety of adjustments based on what's going on in the world, which has been fundamentally changing and shredding itself,'' says Luhrmann, holed up in an editing bay in Sydney. ''The ending used to be much more tied up, and now it's [more ambiguous] in response to the times we're in.''

The scale of the reported $130 million production, Luhrmann's homage to his homeland, is immense, covering Japanese bomb raids on Australia, panoramic cattle drives, and intimate moments of blazing desire between the leads. ''Nic and I had been good friends for years, and knowing someone so well can sometimes inhibit,'' admits Jackman, a Sydney native who says he and Kidman overcame any awkwardness by sheer force of will.

As he puts the finishing touches on his most personal film to date, the stars' chemistry is the least of Luhrmann's worries. ''This is a film where you have very high comedy, and then you have romance, and then you have action, and then you have drama,'' he says. ''If this were a meal, I'm not serving sushi: It's a banquet.''

Originally posted Oct 31, 2008 Published in issue #1019 Nov 07, 2008 Order article reprints