“It’s Saturday night, c’mon, it’s a party!” Noted writer Nelson George could have been pumping up the crowd at a two A.M. DJ set, but these words introduced celebrated filmmaker (and George’s co-creator on The Get Down, an upcoming Netflix series about the birth of hip-hop in New York during the ’70s) Baz Luhrmann. The bombastic Aussie cineaste has risen to household-name status on the merit of his unmistakable, over-the-top spectacles that combine the kinetic energy of the cinematic form with the larger-than-life quality of theatre and opera. He laid claim to date night with his supercharged rework of Romeo + Juliet, revived the musical with the jukebox fantasy Moulin Rouge, and gave Leonardo DiCaprio yet another classic role with The Great Gatsby in 2012. All of these films share the maximalist’s hunger for more, for louder, for bigger, more amusement-park rides than mere movies.
All this and plenty more — to wit: whether he’d ever try his hand at adapting Wicked, the particulars of proto-rap, and his boyhood radio show — came up during a Tribeca Film Festival talk between Luhrmann and Nelson on Saturday night at New York’s SVA Theater. Read on for the selected highlights from the evening’s proceedings, including Grandmaster Flash’s definitive statement on the vital importance of learning your history.