Frankly Speaking With Baz Luhrmann

Baz Luhrmann and Jackie Frank.
Baz Luhrmann and Jackie Frank.

Baz Luhrmann and Jackie Frank.

What would you say is the biggest misconception people have about you?

I think people, before they’ve met me, think I am going to turn up with a top hat and a cane and big red cape and say, “Oh fabulous, darling, I want it like this now – don’t bother me [until] it’s perfect!” Whereas I am actually very process driven.

Your parents named you Mark. What made you change your name?
There was a break-up of the family. I’m with my mother, I go to Christian Brothers College, I grow my hair crazy and the kids there, the cruel ones, make Basil Brush [a fictional fox] gags about it. Then it was [shortened to] Baz. The name caught on, I decided that’s who I am; I’m going to take that name and define it. As soon as I could, I changed my name.

It felt right...
I took a name that was given to me in derision. It feels like an act of defiance.

You have said previously that the right projects come at the right time to nourish you.
Not quite. I’ve got a room full of projects and ideas that I will never get through. Once you choose them they control your life. So I make sure that I spend a lot of time in choosing work that’s feeding our life, personally feeding me, speaking to me on a deeper level.

After you and Catherine shot Strictly Ballroom, when did you know it was a success?
We showed it to the one distributor [who put it on at] one cinema, and we got dumped. [The movie was] going straight to video. We were up the coast when we got a phone call offering us the midnight screening at Cannes. So we go to Cannes and the cinema was only three quarters full because nobody had heard of us, [and then we got a] standing ovation afterwards. There was a crowd that came in around us and I remember the security guard grabbed me and CM and said, “Come with me” because it got out of control. And he said, “Monsieur, from this moment on your life will never be the same again.” And he was quite right. The next night – at an unprecedented second screening – there was a riot for people to get into the cinema. I will always have a bit of Strictly Ballroom in my life.

What is success to you?
Well, I never think I’ve reached it. I am 51, [but] honestly, in my soul, feel like I’ve done nothing and I’m just getting started. When you’re getting acknowledgement over a career, I think, “They must be talking about somebody else because I haven’t done anything yet.”

You’re hard on yourself.
No, I think CM feels like that, too. We feel like we’re just getting going; we’ve not really done anything yet.

What makes you happiest?
When I am with my children, hanging out in Paris or New York [and when] I feel like whatever creative mountain we are trying to climb that we’ve kind of let it go and we feel we’ve done our best.

I think happiness is momentary; it’s a bit like champagne. I think what I really seek is fulfilment and they’re two very different things. In my mind, I think happiness is, “Wow, I feel great.” I can feel great for an afternoon or for two days. But the thing I really seek is fulfilment.

Previews for Strictly Ballroom The Musical begin in March 2014. For more information, visit

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