Baz Luhrmann, the Aussie director of Moulin Rouge! and Australia, stopped by the New York Music Theatre Festival this week and dropped hints about two of his upcoming projects. First up: a stage adaptation of his feature directorial debut, 1992’s Strictly Ballroom. He plans to do a creative workshop in Sydney, Australia, this December and predicts that the show will “absolutely” end up in New York City (though not in the next two years).
Luhrmann has also been developing a film version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby – or, in his words, “the American novel.” Luhrmann says he is deep into his work adapting the book, which he called “more intense and beautiful” than most people know,” and he also has the perfect actor in mind to play the title character – though he won’t reveal his choice. (Robert Redford played Gatsby in a 1974 movie widely seen as a dud.) “Casting is an intimate thing with me,” says Luhrmann. “Both participants have to believe in what they’re doing.”
Boyish at 48, with a neat head of silver hair and sincere brown eyes, Luhrmann is definitely the kind of guy who believes. He even manages to absorb the negative reviews that have come his way over the years. “I mean, if you’re not doing something that’s causing a stir, you’re not taking a dangerous leap into the future.” And he’s quick to note that critics occasionally change their minds, citing EW’s own Owen Gleiberman, who ranked Luhrmann’s 2001 movie musical Moulin Rouge! as one of the 10 best films of the last decade after initially dismissing it.
Mainstream audiences may be coming around to the Luhrmann aesthetic as well. Speaking this week at the New York Musical Theatre Festival to a crowd made up of Baz acolytes and Broadway hopefuls, Luhrmann called Glee “the most popular show in America” and declared that the days of regarding a Strictly Ballroom or Moulin Rouge! as unusual are over. “Musicals are not headlines anymore!”