Hollywood star Russell Crowe and Australian footballers joined US talk show host Ellen DeGeneres in Sydney for the first filming of her popular programme Down Under Saturday.
“I love you guys,” DeGeneres told the 3,000 fans who packed an open-air Royal Botanic Garden set which looked out across the harbour to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House.
“I love this country. I’m moving here,” she joked.
DeGeneres arrived in Sydney with her Australian actor wife Portia de Rossi on Friday for the highly-anticipated six-day visit officials are hoping will boost tourism.
Crowe, recruited to instruct DeGeneres in how to use a stockman’s whip, produced a map of Australia and did his bit to deliver the tourism message.
“Spending a small amount of time in Australia is not as good as spending a lot of time in Australia,” the Oscar-winning actor said.
Also on stage with the popular host were Australian Rules footballers from the Sydney Swans and rugby league star Greg Inglis, who plays for Crowe’s South Sydney Rabbitohs.
Hundreds of cheering fans greeted the American comedian when she touched down in Sydney airport, and thousands more queued up for hours for tickets to the taping which were available on a first-in, first-served basis.
“It’s all worth it. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and we’re just so excited that she’s here,” one woman said after waiting five hours for her tickets.
Authorities hope the visit by the talk show queen to Sydney and Melbourne will showcase the cities to a broad American audience, with Destination New South Wales chief Sandra Chipchase saying the trip was a “golden” opportunity.
DeGeneres spent part of Friday getting up close to koalas and giraffes at Taronga Zoo and her visit has even inspired a response from Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who is facing turbulent times in her Labor Party.
“Welcome to Australia The Ellen Show. Hope you get to see as much as possible of our beautiful country. JG,” Gillard tweeted.