Entertainment

Baz Luhrmann on metaphorical ‘methadone programme’ to rid himself of Elvis

The Australian director said he goes on a ‘journey’ after each film he shoots.
The Australian director said he goes on a ‘journey’ after each film he shoots.

Director Baz Luhrmann said he has just started a creative, metaphorical “methadone programme” to move on from his last film, Elvis.

Released in 2022, the biopic starred Austin Butler as Elvis Presley and was nominated for eight Academy Awards and nine Baftas.

Australian director Luhrmann – whose previous films include The Great Gatsby and Romeo + Juliet – told the PA news agency he has only just started to extricate himself from the world he built for Elvis.

He said: “I live the movies. I build a world, I bring everyone into the world.

Baz Luhrmann (left) and Austin Butler
Luhrmann, left, with Elvis star Austin Butler (PA) (Ian West/PA)

Now, he said he is “just starting the journey of getting out of Elvis”.

He continued: “I have to debrief out of it; it doesn’t just happen like that, I’ve got to deconstruct it and myself.”

This happens after every film Luhrmann makes, in what he refers to as “the methadone programme”.

After Moulin Rouge! was released in 2001, Luhrmann went on the Trans-Siberian Railway to help himself move on.

“I go on a journey, I deal with my own self,” he said. On that train trip, he listened to an audiobook: “It was The Great Gatsby.

“(I thought) that could be a great movie, and that buoyed my spirits and I made the movie.”

Baz Luhrmann
Luhrmann’s directorial style is bright and colourful (PA) (Ian West/PA)

Luhrmann’s version of F Scott Fitzgerald’s novel was released in 2013 and starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan.

The director said his work is a way of “self-medicating”.

He said: “If I get into a dark place personally, I’m probably not able to be creative, but I have to create my way out of that.

“Creativity – when you’re doing it at a high end – it’s like self-medicating. You see that in Elvis (Presley), you see that in any artist. They’re somewhat treating themselves for something that’s bothered them early on.”

Luhrmann’s next project is the release of Faraway Downs, a six-part series that he called “a variation on the film Australia”, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, originally released in 2008.

Luhrmann with his wife Catherine Martin at the Met Gala
Luhrmann with his wife Catherine Martin at the Met Gala (PA) (Aurore Marechal/PA)

“There will probably be a lot of outrage that I’ve done what I’ve done,” Luhrmann said of the new series, but he said he has learned not to let criticism bother him.

“Those that comment on movies, in general, have never really got mine. They find there’s always something that bothers them about it, which is fine. I know I’m making movies in a particular way and I’ve got an audience to connect with.

“So my job is to jump over those that might be trying to club your movie to death like a baby seal before it gets out there.”

Luhrmann’s cinematic style is characteristically opulent, fast-paced and colourful. But could that be about to change?

“I have invented my own cinematic language. I consciously did it and now I consciously can’t escape it,” he said.

“I’m getting to a point where I’m expected – and I’m going to maybe flip the coin and put myself in creative danger.

“That’s always a healthy thing. But I don’t know if I can truly escape because I think it is actually who I am.

Luhrmann with the stars of Moulin Rouge! Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor in 2001
Luhrmann with the stars of Moulin Rouge! – Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor – in 2001 (PA) (Toby Melville/PA)

“I tell stories the way I am.”

Luhrmann’s other great passion is helping young talent flourish across the arts.

He is working with Bombay Sapphire on an installation of thousands of art pieces submitted on social media by people all over the world, proving the director’s belief that “everyone is inherently creative”.

He also cites The Daniels – filmmakers Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert, who directed Oscar-winning film Everything Everywhere All At Once – as newer voices that excite him.

“Love the picture, love them. I saw a lot of them on the campaign trail. There’s a lot of cool things happening.”