Baz Luhrmann on the ‘bonkers’ struggle to make Moulin Rouge!: ‘My wife said I must be out of my mind’

By Dominic Cavendish |  November 6, 2021

“I’m addicted to taking things people maybe think are moribund and trying to shake the rust off them – whether it’s ballroom dancing, Shakespeare or a musical,” Baz Luhrmann tells me. “Everything I’ve ever made, I have made to have a future.”

“I’m addicted to taking things people maybe think are moribund and trying to shake the rust off them – whether it’s ballroom dancing, Shakespeare or a musical,” Baz Luhrmann tells me. “Everything I’ve ever made, I have made to have a future.”

I soon understand what American stage director Alex Timbers meant when, during an earlier conversation, he warned me that Luhrmann was “a force of nature” from whose company “you leave spent”. Timbers, in collaboration with James Bond scriptwriter John Logan, has turned Luhrmann’s $179 million-grossing Moulin Rouge! into a Broadway sensation, one that swept the boards at September’s Tony Awards. Now the musical is heading for the West End, in an elaborately tarted-up Piccadilly Theatre. “If you were to put your hand on his head I think it would burn,” Timbers says, “because his mind is whizzing and motoring; he has a thousand ideas a minute.”

“We lived in our own version of the Moulin Rouge,” Luhrmann tells me, looking back to his childhood in rural Australia. The petrol station that his father ran was, he says, “a world of different characters coming and going. It was a show that never closed.”

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