- It was a bloody fantastic idea.
- It couldn’t be real.
The latter point made the former sting that much worse. The idea of Danny McBride and Chris Hemsworth bounding around the outback — hanging with roos and hunting for Ol’ Mick seems like incredible fun. Just the sort of buddy comedy romp audiences could get behind.
Alas, it had to be a fake. These sorts of reboots usually come with lots of build up — script announcements, tweets from set, magazine covers, and media junkets. Dundee, on the other hand, just seemed to drop from the sky without a major studio or U.S. distributor. It was clearly some sort of gimmick… but what, exactly?
I was right, as it turns out, but calling this shot doesn’t make me particularly clever. Tourism Australia is pretty well known for being innovative. Remember back when Modern Family sent the whole gang Down Under for a vacation (“Crocodile Dun-phy”)? Australia Tourism pulled the strings behind that, too. They’ll gladly spend money to make money and seem to keenly understand that all roads to tourism success in the US market run through pop culture. It’s where we go for our highest office, why wouldn’t it shape our vacation planning?
Meanwhile, the US tourist is the right target for the land down under. Australia is loaded to the gills with all the infrastructure, iconic scenery, and English-speaking that Americans love. Or, as Australia’s Minister for Tourism, Steven Ciobo, puts it: “Focusing on the US, the world’s largest economy and third most populous country, just makes sense.” It’s as simple as that: Lots of people with lots of money means huge economic sway — a fact our own government is blatantly ignoring at the moment.
But how did the decision to focus on the US market turn into a fake movie trailer? The NYC-based ad firm Droga5 came up with the concept and Tourism Australia was quick to hop on board. They brought on actors and things blossomed from there. Mick Dundee is still very much an icon– deeply emblematic of Austraila’s rugged, brazen, always smirking, punching-first-and-swilling-beer-later persona.
“Crocodile Dundee put Australia on the map for Americans in the ’80s,” Tourism Australia Managing Director John O’Sullivan said.
He’s right. The 80s-era fascination with Australia was centered on the “Top End” — the vast expanses of the upper half of Australia’s Northern Territory. This is the land filled with crocs and roos and only a very few hearty souls. It’s where you’ll find Kakadu National Park, a rich Aboriginal history, and dusty pubs perfect for cussin’, drinkin’, and fightin’.
Times have changed and the American understanding of Australia has broadened at least a little. The full movie trailer/ ad widens the lens to encompass Melbourne’s dining scene, the Hunter Valley wine region, the Great Barrier Reef, and the endless beaches of… literally every state in Australia has stunning beaches. Drog5’s idea to make a fake movie trailer about a fish out of water wandering the land gave the tourism board a good chance to show off those very same assets.
Slick move, ad bros.
Of any actor on earth, McBride is the perfect embodiment of the American abroad. He’s a relatively sympathetic version of what the world thinks of us: Bold, well-intentioned, but never quite as cool as we hope to be. The blustering American scrambling to keep up with the rugged Aussie fits well with the Dundee mythos, but it’s also very much on brand for Australia as a nation. The country’s persona is so much of what Americans like to imagine ourselves to be: outdoorsy, mischevious, hard working, harder partying, and bootstrap-pulling. The joke at the heart of the trailer is a kind-hearted poke in the ribs: Sure, McBride could never keep up with the muscles and charm of Chris Hemsworth, but he’d have a hell of a lot of fun trying.
Hemsworth is clearly perfect for his role — and would be even if he weren’t Australia’s Global Tourism Ambassador. He’s handsome, fit, and quick with a joke. He’s literally the American stereotype of an Aussie — a dude who surfs, fishes, and knocks back a few Tooheys with the mates. Also, he’s built like… well… Thor.
On the eve of the Super Bowl, I spoke with the actor about the Tourism Australia campaign, working with McBride, and his rabid love for the land he calls home.
So how did this all come about — the biggest tourism campaign ever?
Five months ago, Australia Tourism came to me and said they had something unique and special. I loved the script they had — it was fantastic — and Danny was my first pick of costar. Then it just took off from there. Once we got on set, it was a very collaborative, highly improvised process.
It seems like you shot at a fair few locations, with a little bit of green screen. As an Aussie, what are the parts of the country you like to share when you meet people or talk to strangers at parties?
Most of them are going to be places I surf. Tropical places along the coast. The beaches are just stunning. I grew up in Victoria, and it’s a beautiful, rugged coastline, and then you go up north and it’s long stretches of sand. The diversity — even just of the beaches — always surprised me.
Even now, I barely feel like I’ve scratched the surface. I went to the Kimberly’s and that was stunning. The outback has some of my favorite memories as a kid: buffalo, crocs, and just the expanse up there.
Is there any place you haven’t been? I haven’t made it to Western Australia yet…
I was gonna say, WA. I went as a kid, but it was just a couple of days. If you’re a surfer, the coastline there — there’s world famous whale watching and aquatic life but the surfing is my top priority. You can get a four wheel drive, camp on the beach, surf all day, fish all day, lay up by the campfire, then do it all again the next day.
That feels like a reality in Australia and also the American stereotype of Australia. Is that what makes it such a natural fit for you to be part of the tourism push?
Of course. I was doing it well before I had any official title because I’m just so in love with the place. It’s not me selling some product, it’s just me talking about home. I tell my wife all the time… I’m just so spoiled. Of course, I want everyone else to share in it.
Part of what seems to draw Americans is that there’s lots of similarity in the landscape, but there are far fewer people in Australia. Is that part of the allure?
Oh yeah. You can get the big city hustle — in Sydney or Melbourne — but it’s just as easy to get in the car and drive and not see a soul. If you’re chasing open expanses… there’s ample opportunity.
I have to say, this feels like something — this pitch… if they came to you and said “we want to make this” would you be ready to read that script?
Absolutely. The whole time on set with Danny we were coming up with ideas for these characters. If they let it be a real movie I’d just want to jump in a room with him and try to nut it out and come up with something that would let us travel across the country and have far too much fun.
Last question, if I had never been to Australia and I came to you and said “where do I start?” where would you send someone first?
Double Island Point in Queensland, about five hours north of where I live in northern New South Wales. Most of the driving is with a four-wheel drive. You’re just driving across the sand, you pick a spot on the beach to surf, fish, and swim. Have a layback, enjoy, and soak up the weather. That’s what me and my family do quite often. I’d say “follow us.”