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banner Thursday, 7 February, 2002, 17:16 GMT
Luhrmann's inventive career
Ewan McGregor, Nicole Kidman and Baz Luhrmann
Ewan, Nicole and Baz spent months promoting Moulin Rouge
Moulin Rouge director Baz Luhrmann has made it his mission to tread a different path for each of his film projects, shying away from using a tried and tested formula.

Luhrmann's filmography spans just three full-length feature films but with opera and a number one pop single thrown in for good measure.

The 39-year-old's first film was Strictly Ballroom in 1992 which he directed and wrote with his long-time collaborator Craig Pearce.

The story had been kicking around as a stage play for a number of years before he and his small team of close friends and colleagues decided to get on and make it.

Major productions
Opera
La Boheme 1990
Midsummer Night's Dream 1992
Film
Strictly Ballroom 1992
Romeo and Juliet 1996
Moulin Rouge 2001
The first hurdle was persuading financial backers that a cast of unknown Australians in a film about ballroom dancing was viable.

But a critical success it was, and it helped kickstart the export of Australian films such as Priscilla Queen of the Desert and Muriel's Wedding.

Although Strictly Ballroom was a love story based in the weird world of dance it used documentary devices to get across the tension of ballroom competitions.

It won eight Australian Film Institute Awards and was nominated for five others in 1992.

The following year it picked up three Bafta awards, including two for best costume and production design for Luhrmann's wife, Catherine Martin.

Bazmark Anthony Luhrmann, to give him his full name, grew up in Northern New South Wales and as a child was something of a showman, putting on plays, writing songs and even setting up a radio station in his parent's petrol station.

He graduated from the National Institute of Dramatic Art, in Australia, in the early 1980s, going on to produce and direct musical theatre.

An opera buff, he staged a well-received production of La Boheme for the Australian Opera in 1990.

Moulin Rouge
Moulin Rouge received mixed reactions from critics
There was a gap of four years before Luhrmann released his second feature, the ambitious modernisation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.

Trusty sword

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes as the star-crossed lovers, the film was billed as the bard for the MTV generation.

The action was transported to modern day Verona Beach and the favoured choice of weapon was no longer trusty swords but guns.

Some critics thought Luhrmann had been too ambitious with the project and it was shunned at the 1996 Oscars in most of the major categories.

Catherine Martin and Brigitte Broch picked up the Academy Award for best art direction and set decoration.

Bafta was more generous with the movie, nominating it for nine awards of which it won four, including best screenplay for Luhrmann and the David Lean Award for Direction.

Following the release of Romeo and Juliet, Luhrmann set to work on his next movie, the musical spectacular Moulin Rouge.

Spam

But in 1999 he scored a surprise number one single in the UK with the spoken word track Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen).

The words were taken from a newspaper column that had been spammed by e-mail around the world.

Leonardo di Caprio
Romeo and Juliet launched Leonardo di Caprio into the acting big league
Luhrmann picked up the words and asked Australian actor Lee Perry to voice the inspirational track, which was picked up by radio stations.

But a pop career was never more than a sideshow and with Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor on board for Moulin Rouge, Luhrmann and his team set to work recreating 1890s Paris.

Not one to be pigeon-holed, he wanted to get as far away from his previous two films and not since Grease had the musical film been fashionable.

And once again it was greeted with a mixed reaction with people either loving it or hating it.

The buzz started at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival and was heightened by the separation of Kidman and ex-husband Tom Cruise during the publicity trail.

Opera

Box office figures around the world delighted Luhrmann as he went all out to garner as much good press for the film as possible.

The lavish production was once again penned by Luhrmann and Craig Pearce, with Catherine Martin in charge of production design.

It won three Golden Globes, including best picture and best actress in a comedy or musical for Kidman.

Luhrmann's next project is once again far removed from his previous celluloid achievements.

He is resurrecting his Australian production of the opera La Boheme for Broadway.

He has also vowed to give up the movie business by 2008 and retreat from the limelight altogether.

See also:

07 Jun 99 | Entertainment
Baz storms the charts
09 May 01 | Oscars 2002
Moulin sets cinema in motion
10 May 01 | Film
Muted reviews for Moulin Rouge
03 Sep 01 | Oscars 2002
Marvellous Moulin Rouge
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