Australia Comes To London

Jackman! Kidman! Kangaroos!

A corner of London’s West End was claimed for Oz last night, as Nicole Kidman, Hugh Jackman and director Baz Luhrmann graced the red carpet for the premiere of romantic epic Australia. Fans showed up in huge numbers despite temperatures that could generously be described as sub-arctic, and were treated to a swirl of line-dancing cattle drovers, parasols, jazz tunes and flaming torches that gave the evening a touch of Lurhmann-esque flamboyance.

Set in the Northern Territories on the eve of the Second World War, Australia tells the story of Kidman’s English aristocrat and Jackman’s rugged drover who embark on an cattle drive across the red continent. It’s the most expensive Australian film ever made and possibly the most ambitious, imbued with the spirit of Gone With The Wind, Out Of Africa and Red River — Luhrmann was happy to admit to those influences, adding Giant and Casablanca to the list. “Any of those films where you have a sweeping romantic epic, where you have broad comedy, romance, action and drama, all in the one big banquet of cinema, that’s where the inspiration came from.”

When Empire asked Luhrmann about a return to his Alexander the Great project and the third part of his planned historical trilogy, the director was more circumspect, reflecting on Australia’s gruelling shoot. “I will go on to do those but right now I have find myself again. Work is about giving and giving and giving, and I have to find my own centre again – I have to go walkabout.”

Kidman meanwhile looked every inch the matinee idol, emerging from a black Mercedes before strolling the red carpet in a climate-defying white dress. She stopped to chat enthusiastically about her latest project, Nine, Rob Marshall’s first musical since 2002 jazzathon Chicago. Nine looks like being a similarly swinging affair, riffing on the Fellini masterpiece (or 8.5 for decimal lovers) and featuring Daniel Day-Lewis’ musical debut. If the words ‘Pierce’ and ‘Brosnan’ pop into your head, apparently it’s safe to banish them. “Daniel has never done a musical before, but he’s an extraordinary actor and I think people will be astounded by how good he is.” Kidman stars alongside a stellar cast of actresses, including Sophia Loren, Judi Dench and Penélope Cruz. “It’s just an amazing group of women, and we all get on so well.”

With fellow cast members and Elton John basking in the warmth inside, the unreasonably tanned and improbably handsome Hugh Jackman took time to describe the Outback shoot on Australia. “We were together for almost a year, living in tents in the middle of the country, so we were like a family. One of the places we stayed had one room, a pool table and a bar, so everybody gets to know each other very well.”

Newly-crowned The World’s Sexiest Man™, Jackman joked that he’d made a sworn enemy of the title’s former holder. “George Clooney rings me all the time in the middle of the night, but he’s a drinker and I assume he’s drunk. Still, I think it’s a little out of line. Right now I don’t feel particularly sexy, it’s freezing!”

And with that, the Antipodeans swept into the cinema before frostbite took too firm a hold. For the rest of us, Australia comes out on Boxing Day, so it's just the thing to watch while digesting all that turkey.