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Down Under Do Over

Director Baz Luhrmann transforms his 2008 movie Australia into the new-ish miniseries Faraway Downs

We all roll our failures over in our minds from time to time, so it would make sense that even blockbuster film directors are no different. In cultural memory, the 2008 epic drama Australia has remained a dim corner in director Baz Luhrmann’s spectacular filmography, which includes massive hits such as 1996’s Romeo + Juliet and, more recently, the 2022 Oscar winner Elvis.

Luhrmann went back to the drawing board to give his 2008 feature Australia a second chance and came away with the new miniseries Faraway Downs.

Using additional footage cut from the original movie, Faraway Downs spans four hours, split into six episodes, adding new layers to the story told in Australia. The series, like the film, stars Nicole Kidman as Lady Sarah Ashley, a British widow who inherits her late husband’s sprawling cattle station, called Faraway Downs, on the cusp of the Second World War in 1939. Having made the trip to Australia to convince her husband to sell the property before he died, Lady Sarah has a man known simply as the Drover (Hugh Jackman) lead the cattle to Darwin for sale.

The pair lead a team and the cattle on a risky adventure across the outback and manage to thwart a rival rancher looking to achieve a meat monopoly in the region of Northern Australia. Lady Sarah and Drover find love on their trip to Darwin and return to Faraway Downs intent on making the station the success that her late husband couldn’t. Trouble comes for them when the well-being of Nullah (Brandon Walters, Operation Buffalo), the Indigenous Australian boy that the two have been caring for like an adoptive son, is threatened and acts of war loom over Northern Australia.


When the reworked miniseries was announced in June 2022, Luhrmann shared in a statement the intent behind both the original film and Faraway Downs, saying, “I originally set out to take the notion of the sweeping, Gone With the Wind-style epic and turn it on its head — a way of using romance and epic drama to shine a light on the roles of First Nations people and the painful scar in Australian history of the ‘Stolen Generations.’ ”

In the film, Nullah is left orphaned after his mother dies trying to evade police, who are attempting to forcibly separate him from his family. The Stolen Generations of mixed-race Indigenous children were removed from their homes to live in church-run missions throughout the latter half of the 19th and into the 20th century, as late as the 1970s in some parts of Australia.

Luhrmann added in his statement: “While Australia the film has its own life, there was another telling of this story; one with different layers, nuances and even alternative plot twists that an episodic format has allowed us to explore.” Luhrmann alludes quite clearly to what Faraway Downs will expand on with its longer runtime and segmented instalments. More depth will be paid to Indigenous history in the series and Luhrmann’s original ending, cut in favour of a happier final act in Australia, will finally be seen by audiences.


The first episode of Faraway Downs screened at SXSW Sydney Screen Festival in October, and The Guardian reported that the soundtrack was “given a contemporary First Nations overhaul,” including a song from Budjerah (“Ready for the Sky”), whose music plays over an opening credits sequence animated by Indigenous artists.

Faraway Downs also stars Bryan Brown (Darby and Joan) as Lesley “King” Carney, a rival cattle farmer; David Wenham (Pieces of Her) as Neil Fletcher, the station manager at Faraway Downs who is secretly working with King Carney; Jack Thompson (High Ground) as Kipling Flynn, accountant of Faraway Downs; David Gulpilil (The Leftovers) as King George, an elder and Nullah’s grandfather; and David Ngoombujarra (The Circuit) as Magarri, Drover’s brother-in-law.

Faraway Downs airs Sunday, November 26 on Disney+

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