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Broome boy rides high in Aussie blockbuster

18th April 2007, 6:00 WST


Brandon Walters had only seen a handful of movies and had never heard of Nicole Kidman or Hugh Jackman when he auditioned for a starring role in the latest Baz Luhrmann blockbuster.

Now the 11-year-old from Broome, who has beaten leukaemia, will be catapulted on to the world stage after landing a major role alongside Hollywood’s hottest stars.

His mother, Janie Wright, said her son auditioned for the role of a young Aboriginal musterer after a casting director spotted him with his father at the local pool last year.

“We got a letter from the director (Luhrmann) saying he was very, very interested in him,” Mrs Wright said.

The family, who had never left WA before, were whisked away to Sydney this month where Brandon began rehearsing at Fox Studios alongside Kidman and Jackman.

“Nicole looked really natural, like a normal woman and she and Hugh Jackman are very nice people,” Mrs Wright said.

“Even though they’re always busy, they always smile.”

The family’s lavish new lifestyle couldn’t be further from their home life in the old Kimberley pearling town.

Brandon, along with his parents, siblings and cousin, stay in a $520-anight, two-bedroom apartment and have been to a string of glamorous events and their first AFL football match between Sydney and Brisbane.

The young actor has spent his time working with a voice coach, learning to ride and will soon start school between rehearsals.

More interested in racing cars and looking after animals, Brandon had never sung in public or ridden a horse before his audition and Mrs Wright said it worried her when she learnt the skills were required for the role, but her concerns were quickly dispelled by her son’s enthusiasm.

“He’d never been on a horse before but he just loved it,” Mrs Wright said. “He said walking was boring and just went off galloping through the trees and I was so scared for him but now I’m used to it.” She said Brandon learnt to face challenges head on after he spent a tough year at a hospital in Perth undergoing gruelling treatment for leukaemia in 2003.

He could barely contain his excitement when he met Kidman, Jackman and Luhrmann and said when the family were approached by the director, they took him fishing and kangaroo shooting so they could show off some of the stunning Kimberley region.

“My brother shot a roo and he chucked it on the roo bar and we took (Luhrmann) to Mandorah Station where we grew up and he loved it,” Mrs Wright said.

Brandon has seen few films but counts The Matrix and Toy Story among his favourites, his mother said.

“He always loved to do kung-fu and jump around a lot and when he was really small, he loved watching racing cars on television,” she said.

“He didn’t know who was Hugh Jackman and he didn’t know Nicole Kidman.

The film, which could turn the youngster into a star, centres on an English aristocrat, played by Kidman, who becomes a cattle station owner before World War II.

She enlists the help of Jackman and young Brandon to drive 2000 cattle across the Top End to Darwin, where they get caught in the Japanese bombing of the city.

KATIE HAMPSON