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‘Elvis’ Director Baz Luhrmann Recalls Quitting Film Before a Call From Cannes Changed His Career

Baz Luhrmann seemed overcome with nostalgia at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival when he told a story about nearly quitting movies. The Oscar-nominated director, writer, and producer attended Cannes this year with his new biopic, Elvis. But following the screening, Luhrmann regaled viewers with the tale of his first time at the festival in 1992.

After receiving a 12-minute standing ovation for Elvis at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, Baz Luhrmann told the audience about when his first film, Strictly Ballroom, premiered at the prestigious event in 1992.

Emotionally rocked by the audience’s reception of Elvis, the Australian filmmaker said, “I’ve had a bit of an epiphany because 30 years ago, my wife and I made a little film called Strictly Ballroom,” Luhrmann began (via Variety). “But on our film, we had one exhibitor who gave us one screen, and he saw the film, and he left before it finished and said, ‘That is the worst film I have ever seen, and you have ruined the career of [Pat Thomson],’ who played the mother.” 

Devastated, Luhrmann and his wife returned to their trailer park up the coast. “‘This film thing is never going to work out,’” Luhrmann recalls saying. While mourning his failed passion, he began shaving off his long hair. Then the phone rang.

“I got a call on the telephone, and it was a Frenchman … A voice said, ‘Hello, my name is [former festival director] Pierre Rissient. I am from the Cannes Film Festival.” 

Rissient had seen Strictly Ballroom and offered Luhrmann a screening at the Palais.

“At the end of the [screening in Cannes],” Luhrmann told the audience, “I remember a security guard came over … and he grabbed me and said, ‘Monsieur, from this moment, your life will never be the same again.'”

The immersive world of Baz Luhrmann movies

Since Strictly Ballroom premiered, Baz Luhrmann has become known for his unique and dream-like style of filmmaking.

Only four years after Strictly Ballroom debuted, Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet arrived. It was unlike any adaption before, turning the Shakespearean classic into a lusty, gun-blazing wonder.

In 2001, Luhrmann’s dazzling Moulin Rouge earned the director his first Academy Award nod. He made two more Oscar-nominated films — Australia and Great Gatsby — before venturing into television with the Netflix series The Get Down.

Now, Luhrmann is back on the big screen with Elvis.

His latest movie, ‘Elvis,’ has received rave reviews

Calling Elvis “the original punk,” Luhrmann returns to the big screen, lending his trademark style to the biopic Elvis.

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood star Austin Butler plays the title role. For the part, the actor beat out other Hollywood leading men — including Harry Styles and Top Gun: Maverick‘s Miles Teller. 

The film has earned rave reviews leading up to its June 24 premiere. Following Elvis’ standing ovation at Cannes (the longest of this year’s festival), Elvis Presley’s ex-wife, Priscilla Presley, praised Luhrmann’s work on social media.

Similarly, Elvis and Priscilla’s daughter, Lisa Marie Presley, took to Instagram to commend Luhrmann on his work. She called the film “nothing short of spectacular.”

And Elvis’ granddaughter Riley Keough agreed. “I felt honored they worked so hard to really get his essence, to feel his essence,” she told Variety. 

Only time will tell if Elvis will finally snag Luhrmann his Oscar. 

RELATED: ‘Elvis’ Star Austin Butler Calls the King of Rock and Roll an ‘Extraordinary Human Being’



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