After decades of directing lavish motion pictures such as The Great Gatsby and Moulin Rouge, Baz Luhrmann is turning his attention to a different kind of spectacle: the Faena Saxony Hotel, set to open later this year in Miami Beach. Along with his wife and collaborator, Catherine Martin, Luhrmann will lead the design efforts as a creative director for the hotel, which is just one element of a massive complex developed by industrialist Len Blavatnik and real estate tycoon Alan Faena, who is known for his buzzy, Philippe Starck–designed boutique hotel in Buenos Aires. The project will also include an arts center by architect Rem Koolhaas and residences by Foster & Partners. T+L talked with Luhrmann about his plans—and his inspirations.

Director’s Cut: Baz Luhrmann

For your first hotel project, what made you want to work with the Faena Group? “Alan Faena is so Gatsby-like. He created—out of nothing, during the worst time in Buenos Aires—a world. He does in reality what we tend to only do in film.”

What makes for a memorable hotel stay? “Every Saturday night CM and I stay at a hotel, no matter what city we’re in. We say, ‘Is this place evocative for us?’ ‘Do we feel transported from our own reality?’”

Will we recognize the iconic 1948 Saxony? “There was a very Baroque style that came out of Hollywood; the rooms have these decorative scrolls around the doors. CM used them as a motif in the newer spaces—for portholes, for windows. The Saxony was also famous for the glass elevator on its exterior—you’ve seen pictures of famous stars in the elevator, looking over Miami—and we want to find a way to reinstitute that.”

How does the hotel reflect its location? “There’s a degree of flash and trash and smash here, and a lot of hotels focus on that. We did research into the evolution of Miami. Faena Saxony Hotel is a little bit of old-world glamour. It’s the DNA of Miami; this is where Dean and Sammy and Frank came, before the Fontainebleau—but we’re doing it in a modern way.”

Any other inspirations? “We have a passion for hotels, about them being filled with human want. You can’t have an emotional relationship with design: the emotion comes from how you feel in the environment, and that’s about the invisible hand. You get there and you’re uptight, but then you sit by the pool, have a drink, smoke a cigar. And then it’s six in the morning, the sun’s coming out, and you ask yourself, ‘What was I worried about?’”

Baz-Worthy Hotels

Raffles Singapore: “The first time I left Australia, I stayed at the then-dilapidated Raffles, before it was done up. So my earliest memory of a grand hotel was of faded grandeur.”$$$$

Ritz Paris: “My little girl’s first birthday was here. There’s a picture of her getting chased by a maid.” Reopening in late 2014.

Chateau Marmont, Los Angeles: “I’ve been staying here for 18 years. My children thought it was a castle. It was only recently that they said, ‘We know it’s not a castle, it’s a hotel.’”$$$$