Recently, Eventful’s Director Series has taken looks at talented and well-known screenwriters, and we have more to come. However, this week we’re taking a break from writers and focusing on the director of one of the year’s most highly anticipated films, The Great Gatsby. He’s directed such films as Romeo + Juliet and is one of the most acclaimed filmmakers in Australia. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Baz Luhrmann.
Mark Anthony “Baz” Luhrmann was born in Sydney, the son of a ballroom dance teacher and petrol station/movie theater owner. Luhrmann grew up with a passion for film, but in college, he fell in love with the stage and directed and acted in mostly Shakespearian productions. This newfound love helped him develop a semi-autobiographical stage play called Strictly Ballroom, which was adorned with terrific reviews. In 1992, the screen adaptation would become his first foray into film and his big break as a director as it won awards at the Cannes Film Festival and British Academy Film Awards.
After his initial success adapting stage production to screen, Luhrmann spent years considering his next project. One recurring idea was “how would Shakespeare adapt one of his own famous works and make it suitable for the big screen?” He knew the key was to retain the artistic aspects and keep the masses fully entertained. The result: Romeo + Juliet. The movie preserved the lyric poetry of Shakespeare’s dialogue and tragedy, and it added a fast-paced, modern edge that appealed to film audiences.
Another idea Luhrmann kicked around after Strictly Ballroom was to create a true Bollywood film set in Western culture that audiences couldn’t resist. After the success of Romeo + Juliet, Luhrmann revisited the concept and – after combining elements from the Greek tale of Orpheus and Eurydice and adding in some late 19th century French burlesque – Moulin Rouge was created. The film closely mirrored the structure and format of Bollywood films, and it incorporated the romance of Paris and modern music. Luhrmann’s third film was another great success and marked the conclusion to his Red Curtain Trilogy that featured a strong theatre motif inspired by the time he spent in his father’s theater.
Most recently, Luhrmann has adapted one of the most popular American novels ever, The Great Gatsby, to the big screen. Trailers for the film are already showcasing the director’s grandiose style and his penchant for 3D graphics as they bring this timeless story to life like never before. What should you expect? Sweeping drama, romance, bold color and unbelievable cinematography that will become Luhrmann’s trademark when The Great Gatsby hits theaters on May 10.