Towards the end of January this year, the film world was sent into a spin by what looked like a movie sequel nobody was expecting. When a teaser trailer campaign surfaced online for ‘Dundee: The Son of a Legend Returns Home’, the entertainment press flew into speculation. Sites such as People, Buzzfeed, Daily Mail, Good Morning America and the Hollywood Reporter, among others, reported that one of Australia’s most iconic movie franchises would be returning to screens, and with a remarkable cast, including Danny McBride, Chris Hemsworth, Hugh Jackman, Margot Robbie, Russell Crowe, Ruby Rose, Liam Hemsworth, Isla Fisher, Luke Bracey and Jessica Mauboy.
In reality (and perhaps for the good of cinema?) the new Dundee film didn’t actually exist. After two weeks of speculation and debate about whether it was legit, the final trailer aired during the Super Bowl, revealing that the whole thing was an ad campaign for Tourism Australia, masterminded by Droga5 New York.
LBB’s Alex Reeves spoke with Revolver / Will O'Rourke / Biscuit Filmworks director Steve Rogers about the production project to convince the world that Dundee was back in business.
LBB> Where was the idea for the campaign when you came to it?
SR> The script was great from the moment we saw it and the ideas for scenes never really changed that much. There was some back and forth regarding cast and the locations which had an impact to an extent on what we ended up shooting, but it was certainly one of the better scripts you could hope to see.
LBB> How did you manage to get so many famous figures on board? I mean, it's pretty much every Aussie in Hollywood!
SR> Droga5 had already done a lot of the ground work in getting key cast in place and once we had Hemsworth and Jackman it gained its own momentum. It got to a point where people were calling wanting to be a part of it. It really did take on a life of its own.
LBB> You've directed tons of commercials, but what was it like directing something to look like a trailer to a real feature film? That's quite an interesting challenge when you haven't got an actual film to cut it from.
SR> It was really tough. Clearly we didn’t have weeks of shooting to draw from so we tried to cover as much ground as we could by shooting with different units and doubles for cast where possible, but the remoteness of the locations and travel times really limited our ability to shoot as quickly as I would have liked. On top of that, we needed it to look as though Hollywood had played a part in the making of it, and that brings with it a certain production approach with more serious equipment and lighting, etc. When the gun went off we just ran as fast as we could.
LBB> What was the production like? Were there any particularly challenging parts or problems to work around?
SR> Every aspect of it was difficult, from incredibly remote locations, oppressive heat, a flood that destroyed one of our main locations, limited time with cast, and techno cranes on remote mountain tops. The whole thing was crazy from the beginning. But we had an incredible crew, many of whom we have worked with for 20 years or so. It was really supportive and collaborative, and the agency and actors were able to roll with the difficulties of the shoot. Although when the river flooded it did feel like it might have taken a turn for the worse, but we kept going and worked it out. I think that’s the wonderful thing about film production, that you’ll often find yourself in a situation that you hadn’t taken into account, without the time to simply come back at a later date, but you take a minute, work it out and find another way through. I think if you’re prepared to roll with unexpected changes you can ultimately get a better or more surprising result.
LBB> How did you deal with all the people wanting to talk to you about what they thought was your new feature film?
SR> I didn’t. What was I going to say? I think in this case, the less you had to lie the better.
LBB> How do you feel about getting people's hopes up? Would you like to actually direct a Crocodile Dundee sequel sometime soon?
SR> People’s hopes were what we needed to lift in order for the idea to play out effectively. Although it did surprise me how excited people became about the prospect of it. It's still going. There’s some petition now being signed to try and get it made. I guess in the scheme of ridiculous reboots, this one is not as far-fetched as it might have initially seemed. Besides, who wouldn’t want to watch those actors playing those roles? The idea of it is funny enough for it to keep people’s interest up.