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'Elvis' director Baz Luhrmann fascinated by Vietnamese spring rolls

By Nguyen Minh   May 30, 2022 | 05:32 pm PT
'Elvis' director Baz Luhrmann fascinated by Vietnamese spring rolls
Baz Luhrmann (left) and his close friend, Leonardo DiCaprio, who starred in Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet” and “The Great Gatsby”. Photo courtesy of Cannes Festival
The dish doesn’t just enjoy the spotlight in award-winning animation “Spring Roll Dream” at this year’s Cannes Festival, but is also a favorite of Australian Baz Luhrmann, director of “Moulin Rouge!” and “Elvis”.

Luhrmann, who premiered his latest biographical musical movie about the "King of Rock and Roll" at the 75th Cannes Festival, told VnExpress that when he first visited Vietnam six years ago as a tourist, he was fascinated by Vietnamese spring rolls with their fresh vegetables and noodle fillings.

The 60-year-old award-winning director, whose prolific career spans cinema, television, theater, music and other industries, said during that trip, he also drove a Vespa motorbike along the streets of Saigon and found both Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi beautiful cities with delicious cuisine.

Though he doesn’t know much about Vietnamese music, Luhrmann said he sometimes listened to a Vietnamese friend, who is a flutist, play and found Vietnamese music very deep and soul-searching.

The filmmaker, who has won several Australian, British and Golden Globe awards for his 1992 romantic comedy "Strictly Ballroom," 1996 tragedy "Romeo + Juliet," 2001 musical "Moulin Rouge!" and 2013 historical "The Great Gatsby," said he was thrilled by the idea of making a movie about Vietnamese music or shooting a musical here, as long as there is a good, inspiring story to tell.

As one of this year’s most anticipated musical films, "Elvis," whose script Luhrmann co-wrote with three other screenwriters, tells the story of Presley’s life and career through a complicated relationship between the musical legend and his mysterious manager Colonel Tom Parker against the backdrop of a tumultuous American society of the 1960s.

Luhrmann said he loved exploring an era through the life of a person who lived at the time, and if one wanted to understand popular American culture in the 1950s-60s, one needed to look no further than Elvis, the idol of American youth.

The atmosphere then might resemble young Vietnamese’s fan culture of popular Korean music today, the filmmaker said, hoping that older Vietnamese audiences who were familiar with Elvis Presley’s music, like any Elvis lover worldwide, would find a faithful representation of his times.

Explaining his choice of casting American actor Austin Butler as the lead rather than better-known Miles Teller, Aaron Taylor-Johnson or singer Harry Styles, Luhrman said Butler bore a certain resemblance to the young Elvis and was very talented, delivering great performances during casting and even crying when he sang "Unchained Melody."

Similarly, the Australian director said he chose another relatively new face, Australian actress Olivia DeJonge to play Elvis’s wife, Priscilla Presley, even though many people expected American singer and songwriter Lana Del Rey, also a very close friend of Luhrmann, to take on the role for her resemblance to Priscilla in style and looks.

However, Luhrmann said the movie covered Elvis’s younger years so DeJonge, who is 24, was more suitable to play the Presley’s teenage love interest.

As for Tom Hanks, with whom Luhrmann had collaborated for the first time on this film, the director praised the household name for being not only an excellent actor but a great star, who broke away from his hero stereotypes to play manager Parker, an anti-hero in "Elvis".

The movie, which was screened to standing ovation in Cannes on May 25, will play in theaters in Australia and the U.S. in late June. Luhrmann said after a promotion tour for "Elvis" in Japan in upcoming days, he hoped to have time to visit Vietnam a second time.

 
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