At the end of November, Disney is releasing a brand new limited series on its streaming services around the world called “Faraway Downs”, but this new series is unlike any recent show, because it’s actually an extended version of Baz Luhrmann’s film, “Australia”.
The story centres on an English aristocrat, Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman), who travels halfway across the world to confront her wayward husband and sell an unusual asset: a million-acre cattle ranch in the Australian Outback called ‘Faraway Downs’. Following the death of her husband, a ruthless Australian cattle baron, King Carney (Bryan Brown), plots to take her land, and she reluctantly joins forces with a rough-hewn cattle drover (Hugh Jackman) to protect her ranch. The sweeping adventure romance is explored through the eyes of young Nullah (newcomer Brandon Walters), a bi-racial Indigenous Australian child caught up in the government’s draconian racial policy now referred to as the “Stolen Generations.” Together, the trio experiences four life-altering years, a love affair between Lady Ashley and the Drover, and the unavoidable impact of World War II on Northern Australia.
Recently, the film’s director, Baz Luhrmann, took part in an interview with The Wrap and revealed some new details on the upcoming project, which is a recut version of the 2008 film, which will now consist of six episodes and feature an alternative ending. There is also a new score throughout the film, plus over an hour of footage, which was initially cut from the film due to timing restraints.
The project only came about because of the pandemic; since Baz had lots of free time on his hands due to production on “Elvis” being shut down, he was able to put his attention on the “Faraway Downs” series. He explained:
It was when “Elvis” shut down due to COVID. I got the idea and started to relook at the footage and realized I’ve shot enough to do it as episodic storytelling through a revisiting of the piece, not necessarily as a better film than “Australia,” but a different variation on the themes. I was able to use the strengths of episodic storytelling to breathe those things out and explore them in a stronger way. Particularly this idea of it being Nullah’s narrative. It’s this First Nations child telling the story from his point of view about the land, this strange woman and being taken away from his family. It’s kind of like what Drover says in the film, it’s truly about how you can’t own the land, you can’t own a child, all you really own in the end is your story, so you better just try and live a good one.
He also explained how he “rang up Peter Rice at Fox and said, “What about it?” and he got really excited about this idea that you could take an existing film and do a variation on the themes, but a new work.” It’s no surprise that the head of the studios jumped at the chance to create a brand new series, with some huge well-known actors, without the need to film anything during a pandemic. And now, with the actor’s and writer’s strike on, “Faraway Downs” sounds like an executive’s dream!
There have been many reports that three different endings were filmed for “Australia”. However, that’s not the case, and there was just one alternative ending, which is now going to be used for the series.
I was experimenting with different endings, but actually the initial ending, the initial instinct is probably the ending that’s in this version. And there is a reason for that. Without giving away what that ending is, I initially thought and then revisiting it realized just how important it is for Lady Ashley not to be defined by any one person so much as her relationship to her environment. It’s a melodrama and melodramas have a relentless amount of tragic twists and turns. But I think that if I was being true to the bigger theme of the story, the “Faraway Downs” ending speaks more directly to the primary theme of the movie.
When asked how he would describe the difference between the film and the series, he explained:
I think “Australia” is a single-sitting version. It’s a one-stop meal of the story. Whereas “Faraway Downs” is a banquet version. It has a starter, maybe an aperitif, the main meal, etc. It’s more time to enjoy different flavors and different peaks.
With the growth of limited series over the last decade, since the explosion of streaming services, changing people’s tastes, it’ll be interesting to see how much difference “Faraway Downs” when compared to “Australia”. With almost an hour of additional footage, the pacing of the story is going to be different and sounds like an exciting way to revisit a film, that maybe many of us haven’t seen in years or never at all.
“Faraway Downs” will be released on Sunday, 26th November 2023, on Hulu in the United States, Star+ in Latin America and on Disney+ around the world. You can also catch the original film on those streaming services as well.
Are you going to be checking out “Faraway Downs”? Let us know on social media!
Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom.