There's Something About Baz
There’s Something About Baz
“The films I make are couture frocks — extremely labor intensive. You know, they’re like a beacon. You’re not going to be making something that will endure or have an imprint on the culture if it isn’t drawing violent juxtaposing critical responses.” – Baz Luhrmann
If you love cinema, then you know about the Australian director, producer and writer Baz Luhrmann. Having four of his five films in the top 10 highest-grossing films in Australia, his mark on the film industry Down Under is indelible. But just who is the man behind the movie magic?
The man we know as Baz Luhrmann was born Mark Anthony Luhrmann on September 17, 1962, and raised in the small rural town, Herons Creek on the North Coast of New South Wales. With a population of only 247 people, entertainment was limited for the young boy with a creative genius flair. Luhrmann spent the majority of childhood watching old films in his parent’s movie theatre.
But a theatre show about Ballroom Dancing is where this story truly begins. While studying at NIDA in 1983, Baz and a group of fellow acting students put together a short 20-minute play about a young male Ballroom dancer who shunned convention. The reaction was ecstatic, and Baz discovered something about himself, he later told The Guardian, “I knew for good or bad I would be making shows for the rest of my life.” And so it began.
Luhrmann and his creative team, now called Six Years Old, joined the Sydney Theatre Company and this is where the fully fleshed out production of Strictly Ballroom came to life.
Movie producers saw the theatre show and offered to transform the play into a feature film. Luhrmann agreed but only if he was to direct. Baz, the Hollywood movie director, was born.
After the surprise worldwide success of Strictly Ballroom (who would have thought ballroom dancing would become trendy again and inspire an episode of The Simpsons?), Luhrmann was given the financial freedom to let his creative flair fly. He followed this success with his first big Hollywood production starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Romeo + Juliet in 1996, bringing the Shakespearean classic into modern cinema. Only Luhrmann could successfully retain Shakespeare’s original dialogue, mix it with modern America and create a spectacular twist on the classic tale of the troubled lovers. It was nothing short of genius.
The arrival of Moulin Rouge! Cemented him forever amongst the Hollywood elite. The sheer brilliance of mixing the soundtrack to a smart blend of the ’80s and ’90s against a backdrop of Paris in 1903 attests to Baz Luhrmann’s quirky brilliance. Not surprisingly, Moulin Rouge! Was nominated for Best Picture, Luhrmann’s only Academy Award nomination. Interestingly, at the same Academy Awards, he was snubbed for Best Director leading the show’s host Whoopi Goldberg to quip “I guess Moulin Rouge! just directed itself.”
Stepping away from musicals, but keeping with the troubled lovers narrative, Baz Luhrmann partnered once again with his Moulin Rouge leading lady Nicole Kidman to deliver Australia. A love of letter of sorts to his home and Australia’s first people. He provided a porthole for the world to see elements and parts of Australia not often explored.
Bring on another set of troubled lovers, the most epic party you’ve ever seen, complete with 3D filming, the most bopping soundtrack, and that my friends lead to 350 million US dollars at the box office. Please enter the stage… The Great Gatsby, Luhrmann’s most financially successful film to date.
The King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, will be interpreted and brought alive with Luhrmann’s magic in 2021 with a biopic currently in production on the Gold Coast. The mind boggles with costume possibilities, rhinestones and the musical genius and magic that is to come.
Baz has become known for his lavish productions, over the top and opulent set designs and his love of heightened reality.
All five of Luhrmann’s films have been inspired by Italian Grand Opera with a mixture of Old Hollywood Musicals and Bollywood movies thrown in.
So why, with only one Academy Award nomination, hasn’t he been more widely recognised from Hollywood? I’ll leave you to ponder that.