The light-hearted working title has been Project Oklahoma.
But the director Baz Luhrmann has confirmed that his next film, which will star Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman, is not another Moulin Rouge.
“It’s not a musical,” he said with a laugh yesterday.
“And it’s not Oklahoma!”
Speaking publicly about the film for the first time, Luhrmann described it as a “classic romance that uses the sweeping landscape of Australia” and runs from the mid-1930s to the bombing of Darwin during World War II.
Filming will start in August at the latest, to beat the wet season in northern Australia, with backing from the Hollywood studio 20th Century Fox.
After the postponement of Alexander the Great, Luhrmann said his first film since Moulin Rouge would be comparable in scale to Gone with the Wind and Giant. “My motivation is not to do it [with computer-generated images],” he said.
“It’s to go the Lawrence of Arabia road and take two of the world’s most extraordinary actors – more than two – to some of the most extraordinary scenic landscape in the world.
“We’re going to do what David Lean did. He shot in Wadi Rum [in Jordan]. We’ll be shooting in the Kimberleys.”
Luhrmann said Crowe and Kidman were passionate to make “something at home, for home”, especially after their aborted plan to work together on Eucalyptus.
“We’ve talked about it for over seven years, that we must do something together in Australia. We’re in the extraordinary place now where we can do that.
“Because you’ve got two Oscar-winning actors, you can actually make a film at a scale that you could never do for an Australian film before.”
While not commenting on the budget, Luhrmann said there was widespread enthusiasm for putting the Australian landscape on screen.
“People understand they can really show the country to the world through a big emotional film with these two actors.”
One key role being cast is an indigenous boy aged between seven and 13.
“We’ve got people all over Australia looking,” Luhrmann said.