One of Baz Luhrmann’s trademarks as a director is his use of music to help tell the story, and nowhere is that more evident than when the Australian filmmaker selected Prince’s “When Doves Cry” for a sequence in Romeo + Juliet. During a talk at the Tribeca Film Festival on Saturday, Luhrmann recalled working with the icon, who died Thursday at age 57, for that unforgettable use of his track, as well as another collaboration for The Great Gatsby which never saw the light of day.
“When [screenwriter] Craig Pearce and I started working on the text [for Romeo + Juliet], we didn’t write the adaption and then go, ‘Gee, what will we put in it?’ We wrote, ‘And a choir boy sings an a cappella gospel version of “When Doves Cry.”’ And then came the thing of getting it,” Luhrmann remembered. “At that stage, I was [young] … I reached out to Prince like, ‘Hi, I’m Baz Luhrmann. I’d really like to use “When Doves Cry.”’ And, at that time, it was just a moment of, ‘Yeah, that sounds like a great idea,’ and I got a lot of good support and he said yes.”
Their next attempt at working together was considerably more involved and, unfortunately, less successful.
“One of the great sadnesses that I’ve been reminded of with the passing of Prince, is that on Gatsby — where I had a considerably deeper relationship, having worked through Moulin Rouge, having worked with so many great artists both on an intimate level in the studio having learned to produce because I’ve made a lot of music — I was working with Prince on a song for Gatsby,” Luhrmann said. “It was a reimagined version of a song he did with Martika called ‘Love… Thy Will Be Done,’ and it was going to be a major piece in [the movie]. And we did work on it. When he was in Australia touring, we did some work there. In fact, we worked on a lot. And there just came a moment when he couldn’t quite – it’s a co-owned piece – and he couldn’t quite get it released. At that stage, I had to make another decision and so I went and I worked with Lana Del Rey to do the piece which ended up being that single.” (That song, “Young and Beautiful,” would score a Grammy nomination for its singer.)
He concluded: “Working with him, he is as he appears to be, just one of a kind. There’s only Prince, and it’s a great sadness.”