Burke & Wills - Production


Graeme Clifford was an Australian who had become a leading editor in Hollywood and had moved into directing. He was interested in making a film about the Burke and Wills expedition and in 1978 approached EMI Films, who had commissioned a script from Terence Rattigan based on the story. This did not work out so Clifford then hired a fellow Australian expatriate, Michael Thomas, to write a screenplay. Early financial assistance was provided by David Williams of Greater Union.

Clifford then went to make his first feature, Frances and discovered that Greater Union's enthusiasm for the movie had cooled. However, he received support from Hoyts-Edgley who agreed to finance. The budget would be particularly high because of Clifford's insistence at filming at many of the real locations Burke and Wills passed through.

Charlton Heston was once interested in playing Burke but Clifford says he only ever envisioned Jack Thompson in that role. After seeing Chariots of Fire wanted Nigel Havers to play Wills, a decision opposed by Actors Equity, but this was overturned at arbitration.

Filming started in September 1984 and took 13 weeks. Many of the original locations were used, such as Coopers Creek, because Clifford thought it was important to be as authentic as possible. There was some additional filming in England some months later.

Painter Sidney Nolan came out on set and was the film's official painter.

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