If you’ve seen Baz Luhrmann walking down the red carpet in Hollywood, it’s almost hard to imagine the celebrated movie director grew up in a small NSW country town and had bush skills instilled at an early age.
Baz recalls a busy a busy childhood which included a lot of time in the bush. That was when he wasn’t helping out at the family garage on the Pacific Highway at Herons Creek, just south of Port Macquarie.
Baz took up ballroom dancing in his teens and went on to study acting at NIDA, where he and his contemporaries came up with the idea of Strictly Ballroom, the stage play.
Its success resulted in the movie of the same name and Luhrmann found subsequent success directing the movies Romeo+Juliet, Moulin Rouge, Australia -and most recently, Gatsby.
Time to Roam caught up with the busy father of two in Sydney (while wife Catherine Martin was off in Hollywood collecting another Oscar for Gatsby) as he was busy preparing for the debut of Strictly Ballroom The Musical.
1. Where did you go for caravanning/camping holidays when you were young?
Actually we grew up in a small country town in Northern NSW named Heron’s Creek. My Father and Mother owned a gas station, a farm and several little shops, so holidays were very rare. In fact, they were non existent, but occasionally my father, who was an avid water-skier, taught us all how to water ski and would throw us all in the back of our Kingswood Premier station wagon, hook on the speed boat and I think we’d go off to the Kempsey Caravan Park, which had a great river for skiing, so we tended to go places that were near a piece of water made for good skiing.
2. What was your favourite place to and why, is it still a favourite today?
Actually the big experience of caravanning or using RV’s came when I did the film Australia. That was where I realised what an incredible freedom and how easily one can get connected to the power and beauty of the environment. We were lucky enough to shoot the film in the Northern Kimberly and the crew was stationed in town and although I had a very nice house, I also had an RV and caravan, so we made a little camp on the location under the stars and with a fire and tables and an annex. It was easily the best experience in making the movie. The other advantage of course was that we could move anywhere and I became addicted to that adage that’s spoken so beautifully in the film “Lawrence of Arabia” about how the Bedouin would go where they want, when they want….this is the great advantage of acting like a turtle and having a home on your back.
3. Tell us about some other favourite memories exploring Australia?
One of the great joys after my film Australia was when we returned to the West Kimberly with the young actor, Brandon Walters and his family for the ceremony for his tribe to receive the native title to their land. In this experience, we were able to travel with his family throughout the land on the way to the ceremony. It was extraordinary to see Brandon and his family just stop anywhere and to the naked eye, what seemed to be completely random and quite scrubby bush, they would instantly find food. We travelled on to Eighty Mile Beach, which by the way, had a caravan park next to it full of people who spend their lives traveling. If you’ve ever asked the question “why do people of a certain age take to the roads and travel?” – when you see them hauling in giant fish after giant fish from the ocean, sitting around camp fires singing, full of life and youthful vitality from the sheer act of being able to access the dramatic, wild and untouched parts of Australia, then you realise that the question is answered and you come to a place of true understanding of how being a nomad sets you free.
4. Any not so favourite camping memories or experiences?
It’s not really a bad moment, but I remember I woke up one morning on my camp site near set of Australia in the Kimberly and the Stunt Department put a sort of chicken wire fence around my van. I didn’t really enquire why because I was so busy making the film, but I was later told that it was to do with a large saltwater croc at the bottom of my camping area. Not that it bothered me, but I somehow suspected that it was more about ensuring I finished the movie…
5. Do you have any camping tips? Tell us any must do’s and don’ts?
Actually, my father came from a large farming family background, (before he went into the Navy and became a clearance diver), so he actually trained us in bushcraft and bush survival from a very early age, so being in the environment is something that comes quite naturally.
I guess probably the one thing staying in the great outdoors shares with staying indoors is that it’s all about Location, Location, Location. With camping, it’s all about where you pitch your tent or your van in terms of comfort and most importantly experience.
6. Do you still like to get out and explore Australia? If so, what’s on your wish list?
Actually the new thing in my life of course is seeing the world through my childrens’ eyes. I’m happy to say that last weekend we went out to Cockatoo Island, which I think is easily one of the best things in Sydney. I would put it in my top three suggestions for any visitor coming here. Out there they have tents already pre set up and my children enjoy what is called “glamping” which I think is like camping for beginners. Jokes aside, it’s a wonderful experience and my children loved it. Next they are talking about my wife and I taking them back to the Northern Territory on a road trip, from where Brandon Walters’ family is from. I hope very much that I can do this.