Baz Luhrmann’s Career Advice? Label Your Toiletries

Baz Luhrmann—the visionary behind The Great Gatsby, Moulin Rouge!, and 2016’s Netflix breakout The Get Down—likes to create lavish, messy worlds. To do that, he needs order in everything else, from his mouthwash to his jeans

Creativity Starts with an Obsessively Organized Closet

My office is in the dressing room. There are always a lot of people with me when I’m getting ready, and we’re having meetings while I dress. That’s when I’m solving ideas or having creative thoughts. The dressing process has to allow for that, for the story or whatever is happening, so that I can be absorbed in it. So, jeans are in one area, shirts are in another. It’s not like I have a bunch of clothes higgledy-piggledy.

It’s the same in the bathroom. At the right hand is the toothbrush, and then it goes to the next thing, the mouthwash. The left hand goes to the brush. And everything is numbered, and there are lots of stickies. I don’t want to sound too dramatic, but if I go in and can’t find the clipper or razor or whatever, I start to go, “Oh, we’re doomed. Everything’s falling apart. There’s no way anything can work. Let’s just stop now.” Because you might have some solution or some little imaginative risk in the palm of your hand, and suddenly you’re broken from your little dream or reverie.

The thing is that creativity—real creativity—is by its very nature chaotic. Think about how the universe is created: It’s a whole lot of energy smashing against itself, and stuff comes out. Now, managing all that energy, or even creating a process to have a creative-vision moment, that’s where you have to be the opposite. You have to employ process and method and systems.

Respect the Hair (and the Set)

The rules of my production company are communication, transportation, accommodation, and hair. People laugh about the hair. But it can shut down sets in ways you can’t imagine. And, really, “good hair” is a symbol of spiritual well-being, a reminder for people on both sides of the camera to attend to their inner and outer lives. Then, beyond hair, the creative space has to inspire you to dream, to think, to play, to create. And so my whole team puts a lot of energy into creating environments that are not just prosaic white spaces.

Then Completely Lose Your Mind

I am old enough to admit that I am addicted to some kind of romance or romanticism, even though I used to deny it vehemently. But I understand the addiction to creating worlds, or expressing oneself, in a way in which things are better than they possibly can be. Now, there’s a function in that, but if you’re addicted to romance, you’re also “wedded to calamity,” to quote Shakespeare. Because, at some point, your romantic environment and your romantic soul are going to crash-land into the real world.

When I go to a restaurant to let loose, the number one thing I say is “Don’t ask me what I want to eat; don’t hand me a menu.” I’m a director. My idea of a good time is not making a decision. When I’m not doing what I do, I’m a completely out-of-control idiot. No one wants to see the person who’s flying the airplane act like I do on his day off. Usually, I go into a sort of fuzzy head space and I let everything go. And then, suddenly, I wake up in Cairo—which actually happened once. I was in Paris, and I might have had a couple of sherries at the Ritz. And the next thing I know, I’m in Cairo. That’s not the first time that’s happened. My daughter, who is now 13, she’s rung me a couple of times and I’ve sort of sheepishly answered, “Listen, I’m probably not in the country right now.” She said, “Dad, this is starting not to be funny. You have to let us know when you’re going.”

For more unexpected stories in GQ, go to GQ.COM/UNEXPECTED. Brought to you by the 2017 Chevrolet Malibu.

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