Category Archives: Baz Luhrmann

Claire Danes

“It’s very difficult to judge yourself. Extreme self-doubt is only attractive when it’s fictionalized. Which is why people love the movies. They are so reassuring.”– Claire Danes

[Image Courtesy: Fan Quarterly.com]

[Image Courtesy: Fan Quarterly.com]

Claire Catherine Danes was born on this day in  New York City, New York, USA in 1979. She is 34 years old.

She was born to “Chris, an architectural photographer turned computer consultant, and Carla, a textile designer.” [People.com] She has an older brother named Asa. The family lived in the Soho area of New York when she was growing up. When Danes was 5 she saw Madonna on TV and she knew she wanted to be a performer. By 6 she was taking modern dance classes. Her focus soon changed to acting and she attended a number of top ranked schools that feed both her academic and dramatic needs…Dalton School, New York, the Lee Strasberg Theater Institute, The New York City Lab School for Collaborative Studies, The Professional Performing Arts School and Lycée Français de Los Angeles.

Her film debut came at 13  in a short film called Dreams of Love.

Angela Chase (Claire Danes) and Jordan Catalan...

Angela Chase (Claire Danes) and Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

She had a half dozen shorts and TV guest roles before landing her big break in the TV series My So Called Life.

Angela Chase, an inquisitive everygirl dealing with the common struggles of high school and adolescence. The Washington Post’s Tom Shales describes Danes as “deep and mercurial and strikingly complex.” [Ibid]

The same year she played Beth in  Little Women with Christian Bale and Winona Ryder.

She made 12 movies in the next five years, Including:

  • How to Make an American Quilt (again with Ryder)
  • Home for the Holidays (made in my hometown of Baltimore)
"Clair Danes to  join 'The Flock'"

“Clair Danes to join ‘The Flock'” (Photo credit: Lloyd Dewolf)

Then she took a break from Hollywood to attend Yale University. She took her time returning to the big screen, opting for smaller roles in films like The Hours and Terminator 3.

She shared leading “lady” status with co-star Billy Crudup in Stage Beauty, a film about where “A female theatre dresser creates a stir and sparks a revolution in seventeenth century London theatre by playing Desdemona in Othello.” [IMDb –Stage Beauty] It was a challenging role.  Danes says: “I was intimidated. There was the accent, the period of the film, and I had to act badly. I kept laughing during those scenes because I was god-awful. I’ve worked so hard to be good, and now I had to work even harder to be bad.”

She followed Stage Beauty with a couple of RomComs (Shop Girl and The Family Stone), an ensemble drama (Evening— where she met her husband Hugh Dancy)  and the fantasy Stardust (an adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel).

Danes as a fallen star in Stardust [Image courtesy: About.com]

Danes as a fallen star in Stardust [Image courtesy: About.com]

The same year (2007) she made her Broadway debut  at the Roundabout Theatre Company’s production of George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion.

In 2010 she did a Emmy winning turn in Temple Grandin. The HBO movie is about “an autistic woman who has become one of the top scientists in the humane livestock handling industry.” [IMDb — Temple Grandin]  Danes won an Emmy for her role in the film. She won another Emmy (and two People’s Choice Awards) for her role in Homeland on Showtime. The show, which co-stars Damian Lewis is in production for its third season.

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Thought of the Day 10.12.12 Hugh Jackman

“Basically, I’ll make an ass of myself anywhere.”
Hugh Jackman

[Image courtesy: RealHughJackman (his twitter feed)]

Hugh Michael Jackman was born on this day in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia in 1968. He is 44 years old.

The youngest of five ankle-biters, Jackman was raised by his father when his parents divorced. Jackman was eight-years-old at the time. He grew up with a love of the outdoors and enjoyed camping and playing on the beach. His first brush with acting was in My Fair Lady in Knox Grammar School at 17. He earned a degree in Communications at the University of Technology, Sydney in 1991. To finish up his university work he took some acting classes and found his muse.

After finishing a one-year intensive course called “The Journey” at the Actor’s Center in Sydney he hopped coasts to Perth to attend the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts at Edith Cowan University.

Promotional still from Correlli . [Image courtesy: IMDb]

Almost immediately after graduating from ECU he was offered the part of  Kevin Jones in a 10-part prison drama on Australian Broadcasting Company’s (ABC) Correlli. Jackman began dating  his future wife, the series star, Deborra-Lee Furness on the show’s set.

After Correlli Jackman hit the stage for the Melbourne based productions of  Beauty and the Beast (as Gaston) and Sunset Boulevard (as Joe). Back in the cinema he was in the Australian indie films Erskinesville Kings and the rom-com Paperback Hero. He also did a smattering television guest spots on the ABC.

Still from the filmed staged production of Oklahoma! [Image courtesy: Great Performances]

His big international break came as Curley in Trevor Nunn’s reboot of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Oklahoma!” Jackman won an Oliver Award for his work in the musical.

Don’t mess with this man! Jackman snagged the #1 spot in the Top Ten Hollywood Heroes List on Netscape Celebrity’s pole, beating out Matt Damon, Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. [Image courtesy: Netscape Celebrity]

Then came the role that changed everything. Wolverine. He’s played the Clawed One in five movies now (he holds the record for an actor playing the same super ‘hero’ in the most movies.)  The X-Men franchise was hugely popular and found an audience across genres and generations.

He followed up rough and hairy Wolverine with the role of refined and charming Leopold Alexis Elijah Walker Thomas Gareth MountbattenDuke of Albany in the time travel rom-com Kate and Leopold.

Jackman switched gears again, next appearing as a ex-con computer hacker who unwittingly gets involved in John Travolta’s crime circle in Swordfish.

Local advertising for the musical The Boy from...

Local advertising for the musical The Boy from Oz starring Hugh Jackman in New York City, 2004. Cropped from original. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 2004 he won a Tony Award for his portrayal of fellow Aussie Peter Allen  in The Boy  from Oz. He hosted the Tonys for three years running (’03, ’04, and ’05) and won an Emmy Award for his emcee work in ’04.

He reprised Wolverine in X2: X-Men United, then starred as Gabriel Van Helsing in the rather ridiculous (and IMO dismal) Van Helsing.

He fared better as one of a pair of dueling magicians (Christian Bale was the other) in The Prestige in 2006. It didn’t hurt the movie that David Bowie added his talents as Nikola Tesla.

Personally, I liked the weird and romantic The Fountain. It was a big, strange, time traveling ride, and I just went with it. I thought Jackman and co-star Rachel Weisz had a lot of movie charisma and, for me at least, it worked. NOT so much for his next film Scoop.

Scoop should have been good. It starred the equally like able Scarlett Johanson and was written and directed by Woody Allen. It is supposed to be a comedy/ mystery hybrid but it isn’t funny and it isn’t suspenseful, and there was very little chemistry between the stars. So sad.

His star took a mediocre swing up again with X-Men: The Last Stand. He was good again as the muscled, intense Wolverine. But not a lot of new territory was covered character wise in the this, the third installment of the franchise.

Then my Hugh Jack admiration took a real dive. He provided the voice for two animated movies. He adopted a strange (southern?) accent to play Memphis, the father emperor penguin to Elijah Wood’s tap dancing Mumble in Happy Feet. Then he played a rat who gets flushed down the pipes in Flushed Away. Human again he played Wyatt Bose in the “thriller” Deception.

 

Cover of "Australia"

Cover of Australia

Baz Luhrmann’s Australia gave Jackman a chance to star in an epic, big budget, old-fashioned, romantic movie. It is very Luhrmann in style, and the director wisely lets Jackman’s natural Aussie charm shine through the rough and tumble character of the Drover . (Though, for the record, Brandon Walters, as Nullah, steals the show.) With the unforgiving but beautiful outback as the title character, and the  nicely filmed attack of Darwin,  Australia worked.

He was in the ensemble comedy Butter and played a down on his luck boxer in the heart warming Real Steel both of which that came out last fall.

Jackman has several projects upcoming including his role as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables coming out this Christmas.

[Image courtesy Joblo’s Movie Posters]


Thought of the Day 9.17.12 Baz Luhrmann

n”I only achieve about 60 per cent of what I’ve dreamed of. Perhaps that’s a good thing – if I did ever get the whole way with anything, I think I’d probably want to destroy it.”

 Baz Luhrmann

On the set of Australia [Image Courtesy: The Play List]

Mark Anthony Luhrmann was born on this day in Sydney, Australia in 1962. He is 50 years old.

His mother, Barbara, owned a dress shop. His father, Leonard, was a farmer and owned a gas station and movie theater in the small town of Herons Creek near where they lived. Barbara and Leonard competed in ballroom dance competitions and Barbara taught ballroom dance at a local studio.

“What kind of kid was I? …Extremely busy. My father was a bit mad, you see. He thought that we had to be the renaissance kids of Herons Creek. We had to learn commando training as well as photography, how to grow corn as well as how to play a musical instrument. We were up at 5 in the morning, and then we just went until we dropped. The town consisted of a gas station, a pig farm, a dress shop and a movie theatre – and we ran them all.” [Baz Luhrmann, as quoted on Baz the Great! fansite]

Growing up the Luhrmann kids helped run the various family businesses. In their free time they rode horses, learned to ballroom dance (of course), and made amateur movies. As a gas jockey at the service station Mark saw a stream of people  pass through. He was invisible to them, and  so was able to observe  their stories unfiltered and unedited for the 5 minutes it took to fill up their tank.  Later, after his parents divorced he eventually found himself in Sydney. Prior to the move he (and his brothers) had to keep their hair closely cropped in a buzz cut, but once in Sydney he was allowed grow it out. When he was teased that his new hair do made him look like a puppet fox on TV, Basil Bush, he embraced the  taunting and officially changed his first name to Bazmark.  In high school he acted in Henry IV, Part 1.  And at 17 he got a role in the Judy Davis, Bryan Brown film The Winter of Our Dreams.

He worked with the Australian Opera to bring in a younger audience and directed and performed in a number of stage productions for the company.

In 1987, while working on an experimental opera, Lake Lost, He met Catherine Martin, a production designer. She became his exclusive production designer and his wife.  (They now have two children.)

Luhrmann mounted productions of La Boheme, A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream and other classics in modern or unusual settings.

[Image Courtesy: NNDB]

His break out film was Strictly Ballroom. The project began as a 30-minute play, but Luhrmann developed it into a full blown motion picture in 1992. The story centers around handsome, spoiled, Scott. He’s a leading ballroom dancer who’s set to win the Pan-Pacific Ballroom Championships. But Scott wants to break the rules and dance his own steps. Enter Fran, a shy, ugly duckling of a girl from the beginner class at his mother’s studio. He teaches her how to dance and along the way she teaches him a thing or two as well. It’s quirky, funny, over the top, and wonderful. Here’s a scene about mid-way through the movie:

It is the first of his Red Curtain Trilogy.  Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge! round out the trio. Luhrmann describes a Red Curtain film as having the following attributes:

  1. the audience knows how it will end right from the start;
  2. the storyline is thin and simple;
  3. the world created in the film is one of heightened reality; and
  4. there is to be a specific device driving the story. For Strictly Ballroom it was dance, for Romeo + Juliet it was iambic pentameter, and for Moulin Rouge! it was characters breaking into song.

The success of Strictly Ballroom  brought Luhrmann to the attention of 20th Century Fox  who signed him to a 3-year deal. For second movie Luhrmann gave Romeo + Juliet a modern jump. It starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes and is both fast paced and action packed.  In both style and weirdness factors there is a 15% increase from Ballroom, but still, it works.

The third movie of the set was Moulin Rouge!, a highly stylized musical love story starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor.

“. . . if you make a film full of risk, studios don’t run towards you to give you $50,000,000 in order to reinvent the post-modern musical, I can tell you. If you do manage to cajole them into doing it and you want to maintain the flag of creative freedom, you better make sure that it pays its bill.”[Baz Luhrmann, IMDB]

It was somehow even bigger and stranger than J + R and Ballroom put together. With an odd combination of modern songs (with modified lyrics) that should not have fit in the 1900 Paris setting, this musical had no business becoming a hit. But it did. Frankly, once Ewan McGregor opened his mouth to sing… nothing else seemed to matter.  (As is evidenced by the bizarre beginning of this clip… Here McGregor’s Christian has snuck into courtesan Satine’s room. He is a penniless writer and he tries to win her over with the strength of his prose [well, in this case it’s Elton John’s lyrics] Kidman feign’s over excitement, hoping to get the shy wordsmith to leave, but then he starts to sing and the movie, and their attraction,  takes off.)

For his next project he brought  La Boheme to Broadway.  The show opened on December 8, 2002 and was declared a “brilliant reworking of Puccini’s masterpiece that appealed to all. [Baz the Great! fansite]

In 2008 he teamed with Kidman again, this time pairing her with Hugh Jackman, in the epic WWII Aussie drama, Australia. It’s beautifully shot. From a cattle drive worthy any Western… to the Japanese attack on Darwin… to the love story, Australia has a lot going for it. (But be warned it is a bit preachy too.)

<iframe width=”420″ height=”315″ src=”http://www.youtube.com/embed/p447zpUmbxw&#8221; frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen>

His eclectic mix of images and music can make even the every day seem extrordinary…

 

Luhrmann’s latest project is Gatsby. This time he re-teams with DiCaprio. This stylish take on the Fitzgerald’s classic, The Great Gatsby is due out on Christmas Day. [Don’t buy your tickets just yet… seems like the release date has been pushed back to Summer 2013 — thanks to John for the heads up. ]


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