'Australia' Endings Go Down To The Wire
MELISSA BLOCK, host:
The latest movie from director Baz Luhrmann is big in many senses - big stars, big story, and perhaps big problems. "Australia" features Nicole Kidman as a British aristocrat and Hugh Jackman as the man who helps her manage a sprawling ranch. The movie opens in nine days. Just last week, Luhrmann denied reports that the studio had forced him to change the ending. As NPR's Kim Masters reports, fooling around with the end of a movie is very rare.
KIM MASTERS: "Australia" is epic.
(Soundbite of movie "Australia")
Ms. NICOLE KIDMAN (As Lady Sarah Ashley) We can't let them win.
Mr. HUGH JACKMAN (As Drover) We won.
MASTERS: The film went well over its $100 million budget. Luhrmann has acknowledged that it wasn't finished just days before it was supposed to premiere overseas. And then there's the question of the ending. A report published in Australia said the Fox studio had forced Luhrmann to change a downbeat ending. The studio denied that, and Luhrmann did too. Here's what he told The Los Angeles Times.
Mr. BAZ LUHRMANN (Director, "Australia"): On my films, no one makes decisions about that except me.
MASTERS: Luhrmann went on to say that he had written six endings and shot three of them. A studio would allow a director to shoot three endings, really?
Mr. BILL MECHANIC (Former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Fox Filmed Entertainment): Generally speaking, no, you prefer to solve your story problems before you set out to make a movie.
MASTERS: Bill Mechanic ran the Fox studio when Luhrmann made the 1996 hit "Romeo and Juliet," as well as the Oscar nominated 2001 film "Moulin Rouge." He says there are some occasions when a studio might shoot an alternative ending, but it doesn't happen often.
Mr. MECHANIC: If it happens once every couple years, that'd be a lot.
MASTERS: Mechanic remembers only one occasion when that option was discussed, when Fox made the "The Beach," a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Danny Boyle. Sometimes endings are reshot if they're not working, as famously happened with the 1987 film "Fatal Attraction." The Glenn Close character originally framed Michael Douglas's character for murder. That didn't play well with test audiences, so Michael Douglas had to go mono on mono with Close and win.
(Soundbite of scuffle in movie "Fatal Attraction")
MASTERS: Anne Thompson, a columnist with Variety, says Luhrmann tried out various versions of "Australia" in front of test audiences. And in at least one, Hugh Jackman's character did not survive.
Ms. ANNE THOMPSON (Columnist, Variety): Sometimes audiences really resist certain endings, and it's possible that they did not want to see the Hugh Jackman character die at the end. Apparently, someone else dies at the end - spoiler alert.
MASTERS: We asked an executive at Fox whether Luhrmann set out to shoot three separate endings. The answer wasn't quite clear. We haven't seen that much tap dancing since Bill "Bojangles" Robinson teamed up with Shirley Temple. He did tell us that Luhrmann did a lot of filming and gave himself a lot of options. Given Luhrmann's unorthodox methods, former Fox chief Bill Mechanic says pressing him to meet a firm holiday release date could have created problems.
Mr. MECHANIC: He's slow. He doesn't work at the same pace as everybody else. So there was no hard and fast release date on "Moulin Rouge." And in fact, it moved five months. It moved from where it was going to go out in October-November and went to the following year.
MASTERS: Mechanic says he took that time to hash out the story and resolve his differences with Luhrmann. The director did not shoot an alternative ending for "Moulin Rouge," and of course it's hard to imagine an alternative ending to "Romeo and Juliet." Kim Masters, NPR News.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.