Baz Luhrmann talks ‘Elvis,’ how much the King owes Black music, and more
For the best part of 15 years now, Baz Luhrmann has been a highly influential and creative force in Hollywood. And even after he took a well-deserved break from directing his first feature film, the King of Comedy, the filmmaker has been busily trying to keep his muse-laden career alive with the release of his eagerly awaited Elvis biopic. If Luhrmann’s efforts had been less ambitious, most would have taken him for a typical Hollywood maverick, but in this case his aspirations are modest, and his ambitions are for more than one picture.
Luhrmann was born in London in 1956, with most of his life prior to his being given his own name. However, a quick Google search turned up a story that his father, a wealthy London merchant, named him after an Elvis of the same name. And Luhrmann’s interest in the King of Rock – indeed, in Elvis himself – began in the early 1990’s, when he’d had a few drinks. His first exposure to Elvis had come from George Harrison, who, as a young boy, had watched him play his banjo with his mum.
However, in the mid 1990’s, his appreciation of Elvis – an appreciation that would later get him the Nobel Prize for Literature later in his career – was heightened by an encounter with the late Brian Wilson in London. The couple, who were in a “rock concert” in the capital, had seen a short film called “I Still Believe in You” that included songs by the King of Rock and Roll, and was struck by Wilson’s performance. “In the film, Wilson is singing a song called ‘That’ll Be the Day’ and there is just this feeling in his body that this is the guy we are looking for,” Luhrmann says. “It was just a beautiful moment.”
Luhrmann was introduced to Brian Wilson while working on a screenplay about the rock icon.