Baz Luhrmann on 'Australia'
Baz Luhrmann discusses his new epic movie 'Australia' starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman with Time Out Film
‘It’s no more about Australia than “Casablanca” is about Morocco. For Sarah Ashley [Nicole Kidman’s character, an Englishwoman who travels there in search of her husband], Australia is just a metaphor for this mythical, big, mysterious place. In a film like this, characters tend to find themselves on a quest, meeting extraordinary characters, passing through majestic landscapes and being transformed by the experience. I play a lot of games with that – taking the clichés, throwing them back at you.’
Your first three films – 'Strictly Ballroom', 'William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet' and 'Moulin Rouge!' were a kind of trilogy. This is apparently the first of another?
‘I stupidly said I’d do three epics. So I started working on “Alexander the Great”, with Leo DiCaprio, then Oliver Stone’s “Alexander” came up so that fell through. I was in Paris at the time, and I started wondering about home, and where my children’s home is. Given our life, it’s a bit of a travelling circus. So I went on a quest to find out where their home is, which resulted in me finding mine.’
Was yours lost?
‘Well. I didn’t know Australia in the way I know it now. I didn’t know much about the Stolen Generations [the Aboriginal children taken from their families in an attempt to deracinate them], or the bombing of Darwin by the Japanese during World War II.
I was just looking for a canvas to paint a big romance on.’
Your last film, 'Moulin Rouge!', starred Nicole Kidman too. Is she Mastroianni to your Fellini?
‘Ha! Or Maria Callas to my Visconti? Actually this is the fourth time I’ve worked with Nicole – we did an issue of Australian Vogue together and more recently the Chanel No 5 ad campaign. It’s a relationship of extraordinary force – we push each other professionally, but we’ve also been through some dramatic things. She broke up with her husband (Tom Cruise), I lost my father.’
Is she your on-screen alter ego?
‘There’s an element of me in every character. But I think her character is partly me. I mean – do I maybe, at 45, think I need to rediscover life’s possibilities, feel – through a quest, a relationship, an adventure – that I’m being reborn? Yes.’
Given the beauty of the landscape, why use CGI? A lot of your landscape shots are enhanced.
‘I wanted to use CGI as a prop. Think of “Gone with the Wind” – it’s comedy, action, drama. It moves from laughter to “I’ll never be hungry again”. But that tragic scene is played against a backdrop that is obviously painted glass – it’s an artificial world.’
Is that why it took so long? 'Moulin Rouge!' was out in 2001.
‘There was a year after that for tooling around and Oscars. Then I did “La Bohème”. And this film took four years. So I haven’t had much time off… But now I’m going walkabout. I need to reconnect to my spiritual self.’
‘I’m not saying. Last time I took the Trans-Siberian Railway. I took hi-tech space meals, which I traded with Mongolians for all kinds of things, and drank wine as the world went by.’
‘Australia’ opens on Boxing Day.
Author: Nina Caplan
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