Australia, the land down under, is known for its majestic shorelines, unusual wildlife, sunny beaches, clear blue water and open terrains. It is a location so isolated and yet so well known that everyone dreams of someday visiting but few rarely do. Australia has something going for it that most countries could never imagine, a sense of intrigue and mystery.
Thus it is the perfect location for filmmaking. The lost paradise in a sense. And little do most people know, but lots of Hollywood film producers have realized the land's potential and used the ultra exclusive land to shoot some big budget blockbuster films. Movies like The Matrix, Fools Gold, Superman Returns, and Ghost Rider. But perhaps not until the release of Baz Luhrmann's Australia did anyone sit back to examine the landscape and notice that this country and continent has been a major player in the world of film for quite some time now.
Some time back a few producers were looking for a unique city where they could shoot a futuristic movie that would encompass all the feelings and ideas of a large metropolitan area but still be unrecognizable to viewers. Sydney's CBD was chosen and the film was the megahit The Matrix. The cinematographer simply avoided shooting the harbor as that would give away the location.
The helicopter crash scene took place at the BT Tower on Market Street while the Kent Street AON Tower was the site of the famous top of the building meeting between Neo and Agent Smith. The Matrix focused on a futuristic world in which Neo, played by Keanu Reeves, was thought to be the chosen one, a messiah figure of sorts who could save the world from destruction and take-over.
The movie was a success on numerous levels and has been critiqued and analyzed by film experts, religious leaders and even historians who attempt to connect the story and characters to other events and references. The most famous scene of the film is one in which Neo is being trained and suddenly becomes distracted by a woman in a red dress. This scene showcased the fountain outside in Martin Place.
The romantic comedy action flick Fools Gold starring Kate Hudson and Matthew McCounaughey, about a couple filing for divorce who wind up doing one more treasure hunt together in an attempt to find the remains of a sunken vessel holding ancient treasures and the evidence to unearth an age old mystery. This film was shot entirely in Australia and the surrounding waters. From Southbank in Brisbane to the Gold Coast in Queensland the cast and crew took in all that Australia has to offer. The waters of Hervey Bay were used for several of the port and coming into land shots whiles most of the "island" shots were done on Hamilton Island and Fraser Island. Then of course there was the beginning of the film which is supposed to be a courthouse where the couple meets to sign their divorce papers. This was shot at the Queensland University of Technology and it was the perfect location. The large buildings with all their majestic splendor and the lovely stairs at the entryway make it look just like a public use building or courthouse like area. The movie wasn't the biggest commercial success but it was a hit with a lot of viewers watching Kate Hudson dance around in an itty bitty bikini amidst a beautiful background.
While Australia is mainly known for its lush landscape, sparkling blue waters and pristine cities which create the perfect setting for most comedies, action films, epic dramas and romances there is still another genre the land lends itself to. Horror. Apparently, the outback can be quite scary, especially at night. And definitely when you car breaks down in the middle of nowhere. The independent film Wolf Creek rose to fame when it premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and soon after became a cult favorite. The movie follows three young people out on a road trip going to the crater known as Wolfe Creek in the middle of Wolfe Creek Meteor Crater National Park when their car breaks down and they end up tied up in a sadistic killer's home but all separate locations. The horror continues as the terrified travelers try to escape and are chased through the rugged outback. The story was based on the true accounts of two different serial killers from Australia who "hunted" humans. The film was shot at the actual crater as well as within the park which is just north east of Perth.
Australia lends itself to a wide variety of films, family films like Aquamarine, Charlotte's Web and Nim's Island all were shot here. Charlotte's Web was a film adaptation of the popular children's novel about a girl who befriends and pig and spider and their many adventures together. The famous barn in Charlotte's Web where Charlotte lives was shot in Maidstone, Melbourne. It was the perfect set because of its rustic look while surrounded by greenery. The rest of the film was shot in various locations within Victoria such as Greendale, Hawthorn, Heidelberg, and Williamstown. Nim's Island was really Hinchinbrook Island, the place where little Abigail Breslin lives and fends off intruders wanting to use her private island for a tourist stop on a cruise line. These real life pirates of sorts are just like the characters in her favorite adventure novelists' books. So she begins to email the author for help and the phobic writer is forced into action when she realizes the little girl is on the island all by herself. The island is featured a great deal as most of the movie takes place outside in the wild. The only real interior scenes were shot in the Warner Roadshow Studios lot in Oxenford. Then there's Aquamarine, the water loving film about two friends who find and befriend a mermaid who they wish into a two-legged human. It's a delightful film starring Julia Robert's niece, Emma Roberts. This takes place largely in the marina of Palm Beach, Queensland, Kingscliff, New South Wales and Gold Coast in Queensland. The water is of course showcased as is the beach where a lot of the party scenes and lazy summer days carnival boardwalk things occur.
Taking in a different genre complete Ghost Rider, the ghoulish adaptation of the well known comic book was filmed entirely in Australia save for a few reshoots done in British Columbia. Ghost Rider is about a man who sells his soul to the devil and becomes a famous sports bike trickster. Some of the most memorable scenes are the high-flying motorbike trick rallies that showcase Nicolas Cage's character as a crazy daredevil who lives without fear. As the crowd cheers and he does more and more dangerous stunts the stadium is shown clearly. It's the Telstra Dome in Melbourne, known for its big, open atmosphere and domed seating. Then there's the quiet and haunting scenes where he walks through a cemetery and spirits rise from the graves as the music turns eerie and frightening. This was the Melbourne General Cemetery in Carlton Melbourne. Want to take a walk and reenact a scene? Take a stroll on the Southbank Footbridge in Southbank Melbourne and you can pretend like you're Nicolas Cage running in the middle of the country. Or take a trip on the Newport Railway Workshops and see if you can figure out which scenes were filmed there.
Surprising the horror flick The Ruins was filmed in Australia. The film supposedly takes place in Mexico just outside Cabo so it was strange that the producers decided not to actually film there but they fell in love with the Australian landscape and decided to move the production there where the weather, wind and plants are far more intriguing. The movie revolves around a set of young travelers in Mexico for a little fun and sun. They end up meeting a local who tells them about some ancient ruins and his brother who went there to take some photos and still hasn't returned. The young adults all agree to do some exploring and find his brother but instead come across an ancient site where the plants kill all those who tread over the site. The Gold Coast was used for the opening scenes where Jena Malone and friends lay in the sun soaking up the rays and throwing back a few cocktails. Then they transition to Mt. Tamborine in Queensland where the rest of the film takes place save for a few interior set up shots done at the Warner Roadshow studio.
Tackling the superhero genre was none other than Superman Returns starring newbie Brandon Roth. Although a couple scenes were filmed in New York and one in Los Angeles at Dodgers Stadium, the rest took place entirely in Australia. The film follows the continued efforts of Clark Kent to woo his beloved and save the planet from evil doing. Lex Luther makes an appearance as the antagonist and the two battle it out like old times. The evildoer's mansion in the film was actually a combination of Rivendell Hospital in Concord West, Sydney and a home in Newcastle, New South Wales. Lois Lane's home was quite segmented, with sections of it being St. Mary's Cathedral in Hyde Park, Sydney, the Sydney Central Business District, and the Sylvania Water in New South Wales. Strangely enough the Metropolis Hospital where you think they would use the Rivendell Hospital again wasn't even a hospital at all. It was the Wynyard Underground Station for interior shots and a place in Tamworth for exteriors and cut-aways. However the museum scenes did take place in an actual museum, the Art Gallery of New South Wales to be exact. But the most memorable location was where Kitty Kowalski gets into a near car accident, that took place in at Martin Place in Sydney. So basically, even though Superman Returns claims to be in a major U.S. city it was done in Sydney.
But perhaps the biggest Australian location export comes from local man Baz Luhrmann's newest movie. Known for his colorful and over the top films such as Moulin Rouge, Romeo and Juliet, and Strictly Ballroom. Luhrmann is an eccentric director who loves to work with big names especially the likes of Nicole Kidman and native Hugh Jackman who happen to be the stars of his latest film, Australia. Just like the name suggests the entire film was shot on location all over the country. The story centers on an English aristocrat played by Kidman who comes to Australia just before World War II to deal with a large plot of land. She meets Hugh Jackman who plays a stockman and together they end up driving cattle in Darwin during the Japanese bombing raids. It's an epic love story amidst a period war drawn backdrop, the type of film Oscar voters drool over thus the film should not only do well in the box office and with awards viewers but also shed some light on the beauty and wonder of Australia.
The film takes place in Darwin but much of the movie was actually shot in Bowen, the small fruit-picking town on the Whitsunday Coast in Queensland because modern day Darwin is much larger and more developed than it was in the 1940s. Thus Bowen became its city double. The residents there were thrilled and are proud to boast about how such and such scene was filmed in their backyard. While much of the film's landscape is difficult to pinpoint exactly in the open of the outback there are some specific places you might be able to pick out and want to visit such as the Home Valley Station along the Pentecost River where one of the movie's most impressive and awe inspiring scenes takes place. Also some small moments were filmed at the Strickland House in Sydney and the outdoors of El Questro Wilderness Park.
Most of the cattle driving sequences were filmed in the rugged landscape of Kimberly which proved to be the most challenging weeks of production. The Carlton Hill Cattle Station served as the actual station in the film, renamed Faraway Downs. But some unseasonal rain put on a damper on things quite literally when it turned all the road into red mud seas and marooned the wooden homestead of Kidman's character in the middle of a lake. So there was a bit of a delay but once the rains stopped and the mud dried shooting was back on and the location turned out to be a fabulous place as you can see in the film. It's the perfect backdrop for some of the movie's most romantic scenes.
Since all the buzz of Australia a lot of other producers have jumped on the bandwagon and decided to move their productions to Australia. Soon to be released movies like the adaptation of the famous children's book Where The Wild Things Are was shot in Gembrook, Queensland and Melbourne Studios. The film stars Catherine Keener and is voiced by Forest Whitaker, Paul Dano and Catherine O'Hara. It has also been suggested that the new Swiss Family Robinson will take place in Queensland which makes sense because of the gorgeous coastline and jungle-like atmosphere. And Hugh Jackman returns for the latest in the X-Men franchise known as X-Men Origins: Wolverine shot in both Australia and New Zealand. Another sequel makes it way to the Gold Coast when The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader comes out this globetrotting film does film some sequels in the outback so keep your eyes open for that one. And another Aussie favorite, Toni Collette, returns with Eric Bana for a film about a forty-four year old woman and her friendship with an eight year old. Mary and Max will also star Philip Seymour Hoffman. With its newfound popularity there will likely be a lot more productions occurring in the country so if you happen to be visiting you might just see a movie being made!
Australia is one of the world's most beautiful and diverse lands with a little something to offer everyone. Take a trip and experience the wonder and delight yourself. It's an adventure you will never forget.