DARWIN - It's being billed as Australia's biggest ever movie, but Baz Luhrmann's "Australia" may also shed new light on an often forgotten episode in Australian history.
The outback blockbuster will climax with Japan's bombing of Darwin 65 years ago - Australia's first attack on home soil.
"It draws attention to a lot of people about what happened up here during war time and the heritage of World War II we have here," said Brian O'Gallager, from the Northern Territory chief minister's department of major projects.
At least 243 people were killed and hundreds more injured in Darwin during Japanese bombing raids on February 19, 1942.
The first 40-minute raid badly damaged the town, demolishing eight ships including the destroyer USS Peary with the loss of 91 seamen, and all but one of Darwin's warplanes.
The destruction will form the backdrop for the final scenes of the film, when Hollywood superstar Nicole Kidman wanders Darwin wharf after driving 2,000 cattle across the Top End.
"There is action aplenty," said Bazmark location manager Phillip Roope. "It's an epic, that's all I can say."
Australia centres on an English aristocrat, played by Kidman, who becomes the proprietor of a cattle station before World War II.
She enlists the help of a "rough-hewn" drover, played by Hugh Jackman, in a fight against cattle barons who plot to take over her land.
The plot also involves a young Aboriginal child who is rescued from a mission.
Speaking at a media briefing with two of the movie's producers in Darwin this week, O'Gallager said the NT government had contributed $200,000 to the project.
"It will promote Darwin and the Top End to an international audience and I do think it will really boost our tourism industry, both immediately and with longer term strategic growth," he said.
Construction costs, hiring machinery, accommodation and meals for the crew would also provide a welcome injection of funds to the local economy, he said.
Roope said the movie had the potential to do for the Top End what Lord of the Rings did for New Zealand six years ago.
"Tourism has increased 20 per cent there every year since then," he said.
"If an iconic film works it has the ability to kick start something that can generate a lot of interest and a film of this size will generate a lot of international interest.
"It is set in a place that is seen as very exotic to people in America and Europe."
The movie also has the potential to shed light on one of the most overlooked incidents in Australian history.
This year Darwin commemorated the 65th anniversary of the bombing. But while it was a big affair in the Top End, the anniversary of the Japanese raids rated only a passing mention elsewhere in Australia.
Despite this, the producers believe it will soon become part of the national consciousness, after moviegoers are treated to a visual account of the first time bombs fell on Australia.
Roope said the movie - describing it as "Gone With The Wind meets Out Of Africa" - was the largest ever attempted by an Australian director with an Australian production company.
It is expected to hit the big screen late next year.
"This is the biggest Australian film ever, the amount of equipment, the scope of the film, the locations ... it's something that Australia has never attempted before," Roope said.
"The north of Australia is a new and exciting frontier and one of the last in the world," Roope said of the film, which is expected to cost $US100 million ($A122.2 million).
Filming will start at Darwin's Stokes Hill Wharf on July 2 to 5, when Kidman is shot arriving in Australia from England in a Qantas flying boat.
It will resume on July 10 and 11, after the real life working wharf is made to look as it would have a couple of hours after the bombing occurred.
Stokes Hill Wharf will remain open for business throughout the filming.
"At the moment we are just starting a bit of the construction process. We're just dressing the edge of the wharf so that from water level it looks like things are going on in a wharf as they would have in 1939," Roope said.
The production company is looking for 300 extras to fill the five to 10 minutes of screen time expected to be included from the wharf filming in the final movie.
"The ethnic mix that was Darwin then and Darwin now," Roope said.
"Baz is interested in doing things in the real place. The story was conceived up here and he has always, ever since his first trip to the wharf, seen it as a really important part of the story."
Filming has already started in the north Queensland coastal town of Bowen, which will portray 1930s Darwin.
Luhrmann - whose hits include Moulin Rouge, Romeo And Juliet and Strictly Ballroom - also plans to shoot in Western Australia's unique Kimberley region near Kununurra in late July.
But the film begins and ends in Darwin, with what Roope describes as the "mystery of the aqua waters".