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JUST BACK: Baz Luhrmann Checks Into a Van Down by the River

© James Fisher Courtesy of Baz Luhrmann

Photo: James Fisher

When I was making my new epic film, Australia, we were shooting at our homestead set—a working cattle station named Carlton Hill, over an hour’s drive on gravel roads from the township of Kununurra in Western Australia.

Because I had to be on set early, the first day I arrived I said to my teammates, “Instead of traveling to the location and back every day, why don’t I just stay out here in the van?Look, it’ll probably never work, but just stick the van there and I’ll stay one night and give it a go—and camp on location.” So they put the van down near an escarpment above the Ord River and that was it. I didn’t leave for the whole five weeks we were there.

When our film’s concerned safety officer, Dean Gould, put in a chicken-wire fence, he said, “C’mon, Baz, there’s an old salty croc at the bottom of the river.” My associates didn’t hold back on putting up lots of nasty photographs of the croc with thought bubbles saying, “Any day now, Baz” and “C’mon, you didn’t want to make that film anyway.”

But I never left. Each day, after we stopped shooting and the harsh sun came down, my teammates and I would share a glass of wine (or was it two?) around the fire, and after, a conversation about the film and how it was progressing and what we might be able to do to deal with the next day’s seemingly impossible onslaught of work. The conversation would fall to silence, and we’d find ourselves looking up at the majestic night sky.

My private thinking at that time was that no matter what the outcome of the film, this is what I had come looking for. The world is getting smaller, and a place where you are “with self"—a true frontier with an abundance of nothingness—is precious indeed.

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