Baz Luhrmann on His Big Budgets: People Think 'I Don't Care About Money' (Q&A)
'Great Gatsby' Director Baz Luhrmann to Be Honored at Ischia Global Fest
LACCO AMENO, Ischia -- Don't ask director Baz Luhrmann about his plans now that The Great Gatsby is screening in cinemas around the world -- he says he's not yet finished with the project.
Luhrmann is in Italy for the 11th Ischia Global Film & Music Fest, where The Great Gatsby will be Friday's centerpiece screening. Speaking on the sidelines of the festival, he said he's still at work on two separate Gatsby soundtrack releases (including a previously unannounced album of Brian Ferry's jazz music from the film: "Was I not supposed to mention that yet?" he asked a collaborator in Ischia), plus preparations for the approaching Blue Ray release.
"For me, it's important to get everything right on a film, down to the smallest detail, and that applies to specific scenes or dialogue all the way down to the Blue Ray box," he said.
Even as he makes progress on finally concluding work on Gatsby by his standards, Luhrmann spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the "burden" of making big-budget films, errors in the way the public sees him, and how a journey on the Trans-Siberian Express five years ago gave birth to the Gatsby project.
The Hollywood Reporter: Many thousands of words -- with varying degrees of success -- have been spent on trying to describe your style as a director. But I'm curious to know how you would yourself describe your style.
Baz Luhrmann: You're being very kind. Not all those words try to describe my style; a lot have criticized it. But to answer your question I should say first that I don't think of it so much as a style as I do a cinematic language. When I started as a director, going back to Strictly Ballroom [Luhrmann's directorial debut, from 1992], I focused on trying to make the film seem natural, participatory. I like it when the audience is aware that they're participating in the experience. It's different from a psychological drama, where the audience can be passive.
THR: You have mentioned you were influenced by Italian cinema growing up. Since we're here in Italy, can you speak a little about that?
Luhrmann: I grew up in a town of about 11 houses. Actually, not "about" ... it was exactly 11 houses, I remember that. There was a gas station, a farm, a dress shop. And my father ran the local cinema for a time. For entertainment, we had that and a black-and-white television, and a lot of what made it out to us were great films, in cinema or on TV. These were films people in the big cities already knew well. I'm referring to [Orson Wells'] Citizen Cane, The Red Shoes [by U.K. directors Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger] and of course great Italian films like [Federico Fellini's] La Dolce Vita and The Leopard [from Luchino Visconti]. As a matter of fact, one of the reasons I wanted to come to this festival is because of Ischia's connection with Visconti [who lived on the island for many years].
THR: Your films are so elaborate that that has become a kind of signature. Would you ever consider making a simple film with people in jeans and T-shirts talking?
Luhrmann: Are you kidding? I dream of doing a film like that. I want to do that; I need to do that. But you need to have the right story. I haven't always worked with big budgets: Strictly Ballroom, my first film, had a budget of just $2 million, although I admit that seemed like an enormous budget at the time. In any case, I am interested in something like that. But the story has to be right for me. I don't want to do it to prove I can. I have to do it for the right reasons.