Behind the Scenes of Oprah's Australian Adventure, Part 2
Hugh Jackman is also booked—and wants to make a grand entrance. "He wants to really do something special for his country and for Oprah since she's moved the show to the country," Sheri says. "After hours and hours and hours of meetings with many, many people, the conclusion was that zip-lining from the top of the Sydney Opera House to the stage was solid and very safe."
While the producers love the plan, Oprah isn't so sure. "I'm going to love Hugh Jackman as much if he walks out on the stage, if he rolls out in a cart, if he bicycles. It's not necessary for him to come flying through the sky," she says. "I was having some doubts about it and didn't voice them strongly enough because I know everybody so loved this idea."
Once everyone's at the top, Jill and team will capture the moment on film. "We need to be timed perfectly because the helicopter is going to go around in circles and take this beautiful sweeping shot," co-producer Lindsay says.
Oprah, Gayle and the viewers arrive and suit up. Their ascent is stop-and-go as guides halt the first climbers to wait for the rest of the group to catch up. "At one point, I said, 'Okay, this is about learning patience,'" Oprah says.
Follow Oprah and Gayle on their climb
The helicopters are circling when Oprah and Gayle reach the top—but the rest of the viewers are still climbing. "We're running a little late because the viewers aren't there in time," Lindsay says. "I think the shoot was called extreme producing."
It will take at least 15 minutes for the chopper to refuel. Oprah is not happy. "That is unbelievable," Oprah says. "We get to the very top to the summit and he has run out of gas, and there is nobody there to take the picture of the summit shot. I could not speak."
Fifteen minutes pass, and the chopper isn't back due to a fuel problem at the airport. "I get a phone call 10 minutes later, so I have to go back to Oprah Winfrey and say it's going to be another 15 minutes," Lindsay says.
Oprah is getting frustrated. "This is the thing I don't like. We were told 12 minutes 12 minutes ago," she says. "If you give me an accurate estimate then we can all adjust ourselves, but do not tell us a time that is not accurate."
Lindsay fears Oprah will want to leave the bridge before they get the shot. "The shot is the reason why we're all up here. If she doesn't stick it out, I don't know what we're going to do," Lindsay says. "I have never felt so bad on a shoot than on this shoot right now. It's out of my control."
After 26 minutes standing more than 400 feet above the harbor, the chopper finally arrives. "I've never been so happy to see something in my life," Lindsay says.
Watch what happened
Back on the ground, Lindsay has mixed emotions. "It was devastating to me just because I wanted it to be spectacular," Lindsay says. "We got the shot but not the way we wanted it."
Oprah tells Lindsay she shouldn't blame herself. "I felt badly that Lindsay felt so bad. You cannot blame yourself for something that you are not responsible for," Oprah says. "But I bet from now on, the next time she does anything [she] would think of the thing [she] normally wouldn't have thought of."
Oprah has the honor of sailing with Russell Crowe, his wife Danielle and four lucky Ultimate Viewers. "I never thought I'd be using the word regatta—not to mention being in a regatta—and to be able to do it with Russell Crowe, who I really have such respect for as an actor," Oprah says. "This is just the most extraordinary thing."
See how Harpo staff prepared for the regatta
Producer Leslie is on a separate boat, coordinating shots of Oprah's boat from afar. The weather and dozens of boats make the shoot challenging, but the presence of paparazzi make it even more difficult. "These press boats with big ferries with loads of press on them would float right on in. Some of them were renegade press in these little bitty boats, and they'd just come zipping by," Leslie says. "The coast guard got them out of the way, and finally we were able to get the great shots that we wanted."
Still, the shoot pays off when all 30 sailboats raise their sails at the same time in honor of Oprah. "That was a once-in-a-lifetime moment," Oprah says. "It was fantastic. It was wow. So filled with wonder. And Russell couldn't have been a better mate for the whole afternoon."
Drop in on rehearsal
Hugh makes his way to the top of the opera house—14 stories above the ground. Producers hold their breath as he makes his first run. It's a success! "That is unbelievable," Hugh says.
Producer Heather is encouraged by the test run. "He looked like he had a blast. He did make a note like he felt like he could go a little faster," she says. "So when he said he wanted to go a little faster, it didn't set off a warning bell for me because he landed smoothly, and we all felt like this is going to be awesome for the show."
After Bono's segments, it's time for Hugh's big moment. The people in the control room are on the edge of their seats as Oprah announces Hugh. "I was literally holding my breath from the moment I started speaking to him on top of the Sydney Opera House," Oprah says.
Hugh starts his descent, picks up more speed than he did in rehearsal and crashes face first into the lighting rig on stage. "When I saw him hit, I knew he had to be hurt," Oprah says.
Watch what happened
"Oh my God. This is a catastrophe," Sheri says. "Hugh Jackman is not supposed to crash into the lighting rig."
Oprah notices Hugh's eye is bleeding. "I was worried about the blood circling underneath his eye, so I moved into action to try to cover the eye. Let's try to stop the blood and stop the show," she says. "He was like, 'No, no, I'm okay. And [I said], 'We are not going to continue the show with your eye dripping blood.'"
Watch what happened when Hugh left the stage
Hugh cleans up and makes his way right back out to the stage. "All of a sudden, we get word that not only does Hugh say he's okay, but he's coming right back up," Sheri says. "The whole team would like to give Hugh Jackman a huge kiss. He saved the show; he did."
Oprah is thankful Hugh wasn't seriously hurt. "As the leader of this team, I've been given the charge of keeping the calm, particularly in the height of a storm, and that's about the stormiest thing we've ever experienced," Oprah says. "I'm grateful for many things. That no one else was injured, that he wasn't injured more seriously. That it was he, who is such a good sport about it. I mean, it just could have been disastrous."
The final night in Australia, Oprah thanks her staff at a party in Sydney. "I have never been prouder in my life of myself and my team, and I am grateful to every one of you for the sacrifice, for the heart, for the skill, for the dedication, for the never taking no for an answer," she says. "You are the best."
The trip is an experience Oprah herself will never forget. "It just opened me up to so much. It felt like we were embraced with the love of the people of that country," Oprah says. "That will live with me forever."
See how Oprah's staff pulled off more unforgettable Australian moments
Go inside all of Oprah's Australian Adventure