“It definitely feels like a time machine,” Ms. Portman, calling in from Sydney, told the late-night host Jimmy Kimmel in December. “It’s so different, all the animals are different, all the trees are different, I mean even the birds, like, there’s like multicolored parrots flying around like pigeons,” she added. “It’s wild.”
A spokeswoman said the government had helped 22 international productions inject hundreds of millions into the local economy. Paul Fletcher, the federal minister for communications, said, “There’s no doubt it’s a very significant spike on previous levels of activity.”
But even as celebrities preen and pose on social media, some Australians grumble that the country’s strategy for stamping out the virus has left tens of thousands of citizens stranded overseas. Several tennis players and 2021 Australian Open staff were allowed into the country for the tournament. And now, they say, Hollywood’s rich and famous are turning up during the pandemic, angering critics who see a clear bending of the rules for those with money and power.
“Everyone knows there’s a separate set of rules, it seems, for everyone that’s a celebrity or has money,” said Daniel Tusia, an Australian who was stuck overseas with his family for several months last year. “There are still plenty of people who haven’t been able to get home, who don’t fall into that category, who are still stranded,” he added.
In an emailed statement, the Australian Border Force said that travel exemptions for film and television productions were “considered where there is evidence of the economic benefit the production will bring to Australia and support from the relevant state authority.”
A year ago, Tom Hanks, Hollywood’s everyman, made all-too-real the threat of the pandemic when he and his wife, Rita Wilson, tested positive for the coronavirus in Queensland, Australia, while he was filming an unnamed Elvis biopic. Their illness made personal a threat whose seriousness was only beginning to become crystallized at the time.