Dec 11 2008
I watched BBC’s Culture Show’s documentary and interview with Baz Luhrman on Tuesday night and was in awe of a great man. Intelligent, funny and seemingly down to earth, Luhrman came across so well and has now been catapulted to the top of the table at my fantasy dinner party. Stephen Fry will have to shimmy down a bit.
He is responsible for the quirky, shoestring budgeted smash hit Strictly Ballroom, arguably the greatest Shakespeare movie adaptation, Romeo and Juliet, the movie which is widely credited with the resurgence of musicals on the big screen, Moulin Rouge, and now the as yet unreleased period epic, Australia, which is already heralded in some quarters as the new Gone With The Wind. Both Moulin Rouge and Romeo and Juliet appear on my to ten movies list – It is understandable then that I would develop a fascination with the man.
Born Mark Anthony Luhrman, his nickname Baz would be given due to an unfortunate resemblance to Basil Brush. Growing up in the small town of Herons Creek, child of a father who ran a petrol station and local cinema and mother who was a ballroom dancing teacher and dress shop owner, it isn’t hard to see where his first film Strictly Ballroom was inspired. Originating as a 20 minute play, directed by Baz, he eventually fleshed it out into a feature length film. When it first screened in Australia, it was not received well, but a midnight screening at Cannes made it hot property and it rapidly became a worldwide smash.
Trying to make a film about ballroom dancing in small town Australia was seen as a crazy venture, but attempting to pitch a modern Romeo and Juliet maintaining Shakespeare’s original dialogue was sheer madness. Even after proving himself with this, he was still viewed sceptically when he set about making a musical. Bare in mind, this was before Chicago, Hairspray and Mamma Mia! The result was the remarkable Moulin Rouge, which saw Oscar nominations in 8 categories and wins in two. Bizarrely, there wasn’t even a nomination for Baz for Best Director. On Oscar night, Whoopi Goldberg sarcastically remarked, “I guess it just directed itself”.
His new project is Australia, starring Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman and is an ‘outback epic’ set in the early 1940’s against a backdrop of World War II events such as the bombing of Darwin in 1942. With a running time of almost 2 and ¾ hours, it is truly an epic event. I am nervous and excited to see if he can add a third film to my top ten list. Australia is released on 26th December, just in time to escape your family on St Stephen’s Day.
If you are in the UK (or are skilled with computers) BBC are making The Culture Show’s documentary available for UK residents to view online for 6 more days. Click here for more. And here’s the trailer for Australia: