Director Baz Luhrmann to take on 'The Great Gatsby'

by Joey Paur

Baz Luhrmann just recently directed the incredibly not successful 'Australia'. I saw it and it wasn't that bad, just boring. The cinematography was the best part. He also directed the modern day version of 'Romeo and Juliet' which I really liked, and 'Moulin Rouge' which I hated. The guy has vision and I think he is a decent enough director to take on a story like 'The Great Gatsby'. As long as he sticks to the story and gets some good actors and does not cast Nicole Kidman it should end up being a pretty decent film. The trades report in a big chunk of reading because I found it interesting:

Baz Luhrmann's "Australia" may be doing some middling U.S. boxoffice, earning about $38 million since it opened Thanksgiving weekend, but the director is unrepentant as the movie nears its first month of release stateside.

In one of his first interviews since the movie opened, he sat down with The Hollywood Reporter and spoke out against "Australia's" critics and those he feels call him the "black hole of cinema." He also said he will move quickly on his next project, "The Great Gatsby," which he said will be a perfect parable for economic disaster.

"A lot of reviewers like 'Australia.' And we're making people cry; I know because they write to us," he said. "But there are those that don't get it. A lot of the film scientists don't get it. And it's not just that that they don't get it, but they hate it and they hate me, and they think I'm the black hole of cinema. They say, 'He shouldn't have made it, and he should die.' "

I wouldn't say he is the black whole of cinema. That spot is already filled by Brett Ratner. And to wish death on someone is pretty hard core.

Asked why he thought the reactions were so passionate, he replied: "I know what it's about." The movie's detractors were used to movies that were neatly defined, he said. "This is not (simply) a romantic comedy for 40-year-old women or action movies for 17-year-old boys, and that's not OK with some people. It's not OK for people to come eat at the same table of cinema. But you look at movies like 'Gone With the Wind' and Old Hollywood classics, and they don't fit in any box.

"Corny Hollywood movies from the '40s freak out (the film scientists)," he added.

I love the whole 'film scientist' angle he is working. I will say this 'Australia' would have been a huge hit in the 40's.

Speaking with THR at the Four Seasons, he struck a tone that was as unyielding as many of the creative choices in his movies but was also occasionally conciliatory. "I'm not whining, because when you do what I do, you expect to be covered in mud. But there seems to be a lot of misinformation."

Among those pieces of misinformation is boxoffice, he said; Luhrmann noted that "Moulin Rouge" has been on a similar pace as his latest epic, and that sticking it out for the long haul was not an uncommon experience for him. "I'm used to the waves crashing around me. And what I do is stick to a craggy rock as they keep coming. And if you stick to it long enough someone else will stick to it, too, and then someone else and then someone else."

(Indeed, "Rouge" was at $36 million through three weeks of release and finished with $57 million, though some might say the production budget of "Australia" necessitated a higher return.)

The director, as Risky Biz first reported last month, also said that he has officially acquired rights to "Gatsby." Luhrmann sees the pre-Depression story as a wake-up call as the economy comes crashing down and another gilded age, as he sees it, comes to an end.


"If you wanted to show a mirror to people that says, 'You've been drunk on money,' they're not going to want to see it. But if you reflected that mirror on another time they'd be willing to."

He added, "People will need an explanation of where we are and where we've been, and 'The Great Gatsby' can provide that explanation."

Luhrmann appeared as particularly interested in worsening economic times and attitudes -- noting a kind of glib wealth that came with "the Wall Street trader who has a house in the Hamptons as big as an airport" -- and he went on to say that the people needed to take the message of hope from "Australia."

He said that he wants to move quickly on the "Gatsby" project because of that timeliness. "I'm going to move faster than I have before. I'd be surprised if it's another seven years," he said, referring to the period between "Rouge" and "Australia."

The project also might not be with Fox. The director said he's "talking to everyone, and they're all interested" -- and paused a full 10 seconds when asked if his experience with Fox was a satisfactory one, before offering a noncommittal answer.

Luhrmann acknowledged his vision's sprawling ambition but said he was not being given enough slack. "There's this whole thing about he's all over the map and he's bonkers. And that may be true. But they're unwilling to see there might be a plan there."

He acknowledged that there are flaws in his picture but noted that when "you make a small-scale picture it's going to be easier. No large-scale movie doesn't have warts, just by its nature."

The director also cleared up the question over the ending. There were reports that Fox had asked him to keep Hugh Jackman's character alive, but the auteur noted he was a final-cut director and said he was contemplating several endings, including those where Jackman's character died, which he said scored well with younger women, but he ultimately decided against it because he wanted the movie to be left with hope, not tragedy.

Ultimately, Luhrmann said, the movie's verdict will be written by many of those he feels have not yet begun to speak. " 'Moulin Rouge' was supposed to go away," Luhrmann said. "Not only has it not gone away, but you can't read about modern musicals without reading about it. 'Australia' will not go away."

It seems Luhrmann has his heads on his shoulders and hes moving right along with what he wants to do, so good for him.

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