28 November 2001
Moulin Rouge: The Show Goes On!
Call it the little film that can-can. Though it grossed less than $60 million last summer in the U.S., Moulin Rouge Baz Luhrmann's dizzying, pop-infused romance starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor is on the brink of becoming a cult phenomenon. Not only can it lay claim to a hit soundtrack, the highly-stylized work of art spawned an award-winning MTV video ("Lady Marmalade"), a successful clothing line and most shocking of all bred a new generation of movie musical enthusiasts. And the film's recent theatrical re-release not to mention the arrival of the VHS/DVD versions on Dec. 18 will no doubt recruit more purveyors of petticoats and panties. But with success comes controversy (that darn Oscar technicality), wild rumors (Satine and Christian: Broadway-bound?) and nagging questions (Where's that second soundtrack?). Luckily, though Luhrmann has carved a niche for himself in musicals (Strictly Ballroom, William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet), the Aussie auteur offers no song and dance when asked the tough questions. Michael Ausiello
TVGO: Do you think that, with the renewed focus on escapist fare, a musical like Moulin Rouge might have done better had it been released after 9/11?
Luhrmann: The short answer which I've never given in my life is it is playing with more potency since that date because the film ultimately is escapist. And it delivers a kind of ratification of primary philosophical issues... [like] truth... freedom and, above all things, the meaning of life [and] love.
TVGO: The film wasn't a huge commercial success here in the U.S., but those who saw it loved it and saw it again and again. Were you surprised Americans reacted to it so passionately?
Luhrmann: The film is designed to allow you to play it over and over like a record to experience a sort of emotional journey. Having said that, while it's reinventing a very old cinema notion, it's doing it in a very new way, and it's hard to get an audience a mass audience to embrace something as new as Moulin Rouge. So, the fact that we not only survived in the U.S., but now around the world [and] paid the bill I'm not surprised but almost, I'd say, relieved.
TVGO: What's the latest on the Broadway production? Will it happen?
Luhrmann: I'm bringing La Bohιme the opera by Puccini to Broadway, and perhaps Los Angeles. And then in the next two years, Strictly Ballroom and Moulin Rouge will go to Broadway in that order. So there are plans. It is my intention that that happens.
TVGO: Would Nicole and Ewan reprise their roles?
Luhrmann: I think they could, but I don't know... I think by then, we [will have] all been on Moulin Rouge for five years, so [we'd] all probably be pretty sick of it. But having said that, I think that with any theatrical production, you need to find several performers, because you have to have the road show and the London production, etc. But it's not impossible. Ewan and Nicole would be fabulous in it.
TVGO: Who else could you see playing Satine and Christian?
Luhrmann: You'd be so surprised how many well-known actors from Renιe Zellweger to Catherine Zeta-Jones can really sing and dance. So there are a lot of possibilities. But you would only look at the casting when you got to that point.
TVGO: You were such a fan of your Strictly Ballroom leading lady Tara Morice that you had her sing "Time After Time" on the movie's soundtrack even though her character never sings in the film. Were you tempted to cast her as Satine rather than going with someone like Nicole, whose singing ability you weren't so familiar with?
Luhrmann: I've worked with Tara over many years, and in fact, she has a very secret cameo in Moulin Rouge. You know the opening shot with the wide shot of Paris and you sweep down? She's the prostitute who looks at the camera for just a moment. But the truth is no: I think that in Moulin Rouge it was finally a role that was right for Nicole. She's a tremendous classical actress in the sense that she can do tragedy very well, but I knew her as a very funny actor and I wanted to expose that kind of wild physical comedy side. So it was pretty much always Nicole; it was just a question of could she sing the role.
TVGO: What did you think of the Oscars ruling out "Come What May" from Best Original Song consideration just because it was written to go in your version of Romeo & Juliet?
Luhrmann: I don't blame the Academy, because it's just a technical rule. But it's sad because we could have seen Ewan and Nicole sing it at the Oscars. That would have been just a great joy.
TVGO: Speaking of Oscar, Nicole is being talked about and deservedly so for both Moulin Rouge and The Others. Which do you think is her finer performance?
Luhrmann: I've got a really simple rule. She should win the Academy Award this year because of the body of work of the two pictures. But having said that, my pitch for Moulin Rouge is the following: She's fantastic in The Others, but if the Academy Awards are about identifying unusual or exceptional achievement, [then she should be nominated for Moulin Rouge]. She's comic, she's tragic, and here's the unusual bit she sings and she dances. All categories are covered. That would be my only pitch.
TVGO: Is it going to get messy between 20th Century Fox [Moulin Rouge's distributor] and Miramax [the studio behind The Others] when deciding what movie to push her for?
Luhrmann: I won't let it get messy. I will do whatever's necessary [to ensure] that Nicole has the best chance of winning whatever the nomination is because she deserves it. But the great news is that there's no question that she should be nominated you don't even have that as being a question which is a brilliant thing. Can you think of anyone who sort of needs an uplifting experience in their life at the moment more than Nicole Kidman in terms of the acting fraternity?
TVGO: So, if Nicole's people decide that she stands a better chance of getting a best actress nomination for The Others than for Moulin Rouge, and thus her Oscar campaign should focus on The Others, you'd be alright with that?
Luhrmann: I wouldn't [discuss] it with her people, I'd [discuss] it with her. I'll sit down with her at some point I'll get everyone to sit down and say, "Listen. What's the best shot here?" And that's what we've got to do. We've got to make sure the one that we push is the right one. You'd think because The Others has done more box office that it's [the logical choice], but box office and the Academy don't necessarily align.
TVGO: Why didn't you include the hilarious cover of Madonna's "Like a Virgin" on the Moulin Rouge soundtrack?
Luhrmann: When I first conceived the album, I was going to do it as a double album. And it became way too expensive for young people to buy that. So I did the first album, which was the radio friendly one, and the second album which I call "The Lover's Album," which is basically a cast album of all the missing tracks: "Like a Virgin," "Show Must Go On," "Lamb"... all the tracks. I just completed that album in Sydney and it comes out in February around Valentine's Day.
TVGO: What will your next big-screen venture be?
Luhrmann: I will be committed to my new project by around March next year, so that's a time when I could answer that.
TVGO: Are you leaning towards something?
Luhrmann: I will do music cinema again, but [Moulin Rouge is] the last of the red curtain trilogy [that includes Strictly Ballroom and Romeo + Juliet]. My [next film] will have a different language. It will always be our style, but it will be of different sort of currency, if you like.
TVGO: So it won't be a musical?
Luhrmann: It probably won't be [not] a red curtain musical. But I will do another musical.