A while back I received an e-mail from Ursula. She wrote:
Greetings Susan, I’ve enjoyed your blog for years! Would you consider doing a movie house tour of the Queenslander Nicole Kidman inherits in the film, Australia? I would love to see more detail and learn more about it. Thank you. Kindest regards.
Ursula, thanks so much for the suggestion because both the movie and the Queenslander home, Faraway Downs, were awesome!
(Click Ctrl+ to enlarge the pictures a bit and then Ctrl 0 (zero) when finished.)
The 2008 movie, Australia, directed by Baz Luhrmann, was filmed in Australia in multiple locations including The Kimberly, Bowen and Darwin. Faraway Downs, the home that played such a big part in the movie, was built in Kununurra. A set built for the interior scenes was constructed in Sydney.
Kununurra is a hot dusty town in far northern Western Australia, a remote area where the nearest town (Wyndham) is 62 miles away.
Instead of building Faraway Downs on location, it was prefabricated in Sydney, then transported to Western Australia in semi trailers where it was built by a crew of forty workers. The picture below really gives you an idea of just how remote a location was chosen for this home that plays such an important character in the movie. The home was constructed at the foot of a large hill known as House Roof Hill. You’ll be able to see House Roof Hill a bit better later in this post.
This movie takes place in 1939, just before World War II. Nicole Kidman plays Lady Sarah Ashley, a young English aristocrat who decides to take a trip to Australia where her philandering husband is currently overseeing their ranch, Faraway Downs. She’s determined to convince him to sell the property and come back home.
Her husband sends a cattle drover, played by Hugh Jackman (he’s divine in this movie!) to pick her up and to transport her to Faraway Downs. In the movie Hugh Jackman’s character actually goes by the name, Drover. I had never heard the word drover but per Wikipedia:
A drover in Australia is a person, who moves livestock, usually sheep, cattle and horses “on the hoof” over long distances. Reasons for droving may include: delivering animals to a new owner’s property, taking animals to market, or moving animals during a drought in search of better feed and/or water.
The ride to the ranch is wild and crazy and it’s a true fish-out-of-water adventure if ever there was one. When Lady Ashley first arrives, she is elegantly dressed to the nines but by the time she arrives at the ranch, she’s a sweaty, dusty mess.
As Lady Ashley (Sarah) arrives we get our first real look at the rundown Faraway Downs. The front gate is in pitiful shape.
The house is not much better with a sagging front porch roof, broken, falling-down, matchstick porch shades and an exterior that’s badly in need of a good painting.
There’s House Roof Hill in the background…such a great name for a hill! You can read more about how this specific location in Kununurra was chosen for the movie here: BVisual Media
As Lady Sarah enters the front door for the first time, we see the name “Faraway Downs” in the stained glass panel in the front door. Even through all the neglect, we see signs of the beauty and romance of this wonderful home.
The first room we really see inside Faraway Downs is the dining room. Ignoring Drover’s (Hugh Jackman’s) order to wait in the truck, Sarah (Nicole Kidman) rushes headlong into the house to shockingly find her husband on the dining room table and obviously very dead.
In the first part of the movie, Faraway Downs feels very dark, brooding and little scary. This parallels the goings-on in the house and on the ranch perfectly.
Despite the danger and dark atmosphere surrounding the beginning of the movie, you can see that Faraway Downs was once a beautiful, vibrant home. It’s dusty and run down now, but it’s obvious someone at some point, cared very much for the home and took great care to decorate the walls and to furnish the home with beautiful furniture. It’s also obvious that Faraway Downs has fallen on hard times.
Despite all the dust and spookiness, the bedroom Sarah sleeps in her first night at Faraway Downs is beautiful.
Another main character, Nullah (played by Brandon Walters) suddenly appears in Sarah’s room during this scene.
One last view of Sarah’s bedroom at Faraway Downs…
Another room we see in the early part of the movie is the room where Faraway Down’s heavy-drinking, accountant, Kipling Flynn (played by Jack Thompson) sleeps and works.
Again it’s filled with beautiful furniture, antiques to us but would have been current furnishing for the period the movie was made.
The other side of the room…
Throughout the early part of the movie, the woven matchstick shades on the front porch are always down. They are torn and damaged very badly, emphasizing the poor condition of Faraway Downs.
Another view showing the dirty and dilapidated condition of Faraway Downs.
During the filming, rare rains came to the area. It caused tremendous flooding and the cast had to abandon filming the outdoor scenes to flee to Sydney where they worked on the interior scenes that were filmed on a set.
As with most movies, there’s an evil antagonist in Australia. Actually there are a few in this movie but the main one is Neil Fletcher played by David Wenham. He’s the manager of Faraway Downs until he accidentally reveals his true colors and gets fired by Lady Sarah. He is genuinely evil, taking the lives of several folks in the course of the movie.
Eventually, a plan is hatched to save Faraway Downs and Lady Sarah convinces Drover to help her. During their adventure of driving the cattle all the way to Darwin to be sold, they begin to fall in love. After the cattle are sold, Lady Sarah and Drover return to Faraway Downs where they are able to repair the home and make it beautiful once again.
Everything is lightened and brightened with a fresh coat of whitewash.
Doesn’t it look a million times better! The rains come and Lady Sarah is able to create beautiful gardens for her Queenslander home. I did a little research and discovered that Queenslander homes are usually timber construction and are either one or two stories. Often they are raised like Faraway Downs to help with ventilation. It gets super hot in this area of Australia with temperatures reaching 109-110.
In fact, both Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman fainted during the making of the movie while sitting atop horses. Hugh Jackman passed out the very first day of filming when he had on a wool shirt and had to sit on a horse for over two hours while they solved some other filming issue. Someone noticed he was beginning to lean and they got him off the horse before he fell off.
Same thing happened to Nicole Kidman later in the making of the movie. She had just found out she was expecting when filming first started for the movie. One day when the temps were up around 109, she fainted while sitting on her horse. Fortunately, the handler for the horse caught her.
The raised design of a Queenslander home also helps keep critters out of the house (especially termites) and helps avoid flooding problems during times of heavy rain.
Did you notice all the beautiful gardens around Faraway Downs, such a contrast from how it looked at the start of the movie. Those were designed by set designer, Catherine Martin.
Remember the fake tree in the movie, The Holiday? Well, some of the landscaping is faux in this movie, too…like this Baob tree. Yep, totally fake.
It has leaves later on in the movie.
Another view of this Queenslander cottage from a different angle. Since the home was only a faux exterior built just for the movie, I’m guessing it was torn down once the movie was finished.
The ratty, old matchstick shades are gone. How do you like this style house? It reminds me of the raised cottages we have along the coastal areas here in the south.
I love the design of the porch, it even has lattice doors. Doors for a porch!
Now that Faraway Downs has been painted and brightened, we can see the interior a bit better. The entry has a lovely bamboo hall tree just inside the front door.
I love the beautiful stained glass in the sidelights and the door.
Another view of the hallway from the other end. Wonder what that tall thing is on the right.
Sarah steps into the living room of Faraway Downs to find she has a disturbing visitor.
The evil Neil Fletcher has stopped by to scare her and make her life miserable. He’s good at that!
We get a good view of the dining room in this scene.
I think there are two sets of the white birds in the movie. I noticed them in the dining room and again on this piece that I think is in the living room.
Notice the beautiful old desk on the left.
Another view looking into adjoining rooms.
Lady Sarah’s bedroom looks much brighter and less scary after the restoration.
These are the only interior rooms we see after Faraway Downs is brought back to life.
Love this evening view of Faraway Downs against a blue hour sky. Did you see the movie, Australia, when it was in the theater? How did you like the house on the big screen?
I really like a Queenslander style home. Here’s a picture of another one I found at Wikipedia. They have so much personality, don’t they? I love how the porches have doors!
Thanks to Ursula for suggesting I check out this wonderful movie house. I always love hearing your movie suggestions. Movie house posts take a while to create, but they are always some of my favorite posts to look back on later.
Movies transport us to another world, sometimes literally! I learned so much about Australia researching information for this post. I would love to see it in person one day, just maybe not when it’s 109 degrees outside!
Hope you enjoyed this movie house tour of Faraway Downs from the movie, Australia. You’ll find additional tours of all your favorite movie houses under the category Movie Houses at the top of the blog, or click here: Movie House Tours.
Check out the category, More TV & Movie Houses, where you may find me hiding out under a cabinet, ala Randy in A Christmas Story. 🙂
Have a wonderful weekend, see you on Monday for Metamorphosis Monday!