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Director Graeme Clifford took four years and made five drafts of the script before he felt confident enough to start filming. He acknowledged that the history books had largely misrepresented Burke as a blunderer and an idiot and his film focused on the interaction between the two main characters, expedition leader Robert O'Hara Burke and surveyor and third-in-command, William John Wills. (Cinema Papers, November 1985)

With a budget of $8,900,000 this was the most expensive film ever made in Australia (In the mid-eighties, big budget films in Australia ran to $2 million). Much of the money was spent filming on location in the remoter parts of Australia. It was filmed in Darwin, Alice Springs, Cooper Creek, Mildura, Lake Torrens and Sydney. (Encore, Volume 2, Number 21,
5 December 1984)

The movie premiered in Melbourne on 2 November 1985 before Prince Charles and Lady Diana; the first Australian Royal Premiere. It opened in other Australian cities on 7 November 1985, was shown at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1986, the Toronto Film Festival in September 1986 and was released worldwide in early 1986.

With a runtime of 140 minutes, Clifford had originally wanted to make a three hour movie with an intermission. Eventually he settled for two hours and twenty minutes and felt that he did not discard any scenes of importance.

Film Release
Australia: 1985 by Hoyt's Edgley Productions, PG.
USA: 1986 by Colombia Pictures Production, PG-13.
UK: Hemdale Releasing Corporation.
Runtime: 140 minutes

VHS Release
Australian VHS-PAL: 1987 by RCA, ​Columbia Pictures, ​Hoyts Video, Film Entertainment Corp & Charter Entertainment.
USA VHS-NTSC: 26 October 1988 by Nelson Entertainment & Charter Entertainment.
UPC: 082589021430 / ASIN: 6300133729 / ISBN: 6300133729 / EAN: 9786300133723

Laserdisc Release
USA Laserdisc release, UPC: 08258902146.

Acting Credits
Jack Thompson as Robert O'Hara Burke
Nigel Havers as William John Wills
Greta Scacchi as Julia Matthews
Matthew Fargher as John King
Chris Haywood as Tom McDonagh
Ralph Cotterill as Charley Gray
Drew Forsythe as William Brahe
Ron Blanchard as Bill Patton
Monroe Reimers as Dost Mahomet
Barry Hill as George Landells
Hugh Keays-Byrne as Ambrose Kyte
Roderick Williams as Bill Wright
Arthur Dignam as Sir William Stawell
Ken Goodlet as Doctor John Macadam
Peter Collingwood as Doctor William Wills
Edward Hepple as Ludwig Becker
Susannah Harker as Bessie Wills
Martin Redpath as Mayor of Melbourne
Julia Hamilton as Mrs Kyte
Nick Carrafa as Edwin Welch
John Gregg as Alfred Erwin
Deryck Barnes as Tom Payne
Les Foxcroft as Harry
John Penman as Fat Kid
Redmond Phillips as Commissioner May
Mark Pegler as Journalist
Mary Acres as Julia's Dresser
David Bracks as Lawyer
Lucy Bell as Kyte's Daughter
Matthew Savage as Christopher Marsden

Production Credits
Director: Graeme Clifford
Writing credit: Michael Thomas (III)
Producer: Graeme Clifford
Associate producers: Greg Ricketson & John Sexton
Original music: Peter Sculthorpe
Official artist: Sidney Nolan
Cinematography: Russell Boyd
Film Editing: Tim Wellburn
Production design: Ross Major
Set decoration: Sally Campbell & Brian Edmonds
Costume design: George Liddle

Production manager: Carolynne Cunningham
Assistant director: Mark Turnbull
First assistant director: Craig Bolles
Second assistant director: Tony Mahood

Art Department
Property buyer: Peta Lawson
Stand-by props: Igor Lazareff

Sound Department
Sound: Syd Butterworth
Boom operators: Gerry Nucifora & Phil Tipene

Special Effects
Special effects supervisor: Tad Pride
Special effects modelmaker: Adam Grace (I) (uncredited
Special effects technician: Allan McGuiness (uncredited)
Special effects modelmaker: David Tremont (uncredited)

Visual Effects
Visual effects producer: Andrew Mason (II)
Visual effects supervisor: Paul Nichola
Visual effects supervisor: David Pride
Visual effects supervisor: Tad Pride
Model maker: Lewis Morley (I) (uncredited)
Optical department supervisor: John Pope (I) (uncredited)

Other crew
Gaffer: Brian Bansgrove
Camera operator: Nixon Binney
Key grip: Ray Brown (IV)
Electrician: Colin Chase (II)
Assistant camera second unit: Derry Field
Production coordinator: Julie Forster
Post-production supervisor: Lynn Gailey
Production coordinator: Lynda House
Continuity: Moya Iceton
Camera operator second unit: Louis Irving
Focus puller: Peter Menzies Jr.
Clapper loader: Garry Phillips
Location manager: Ron Stigwood
Wardrobe supervisor: Anna Wade

Production Companies
GUO Hoyts Edgley
Stony Desert Distributors
Hemdale Film Corporation
Special Effects: Mirage Visual Effects

www.burkeandwills.net.au Burke & Wills Web The digital research archive of expedition records
© 2020, Dave Phoenix