Paul Mercurio and Tara Morice in a scene from the film Strictly Ballroom. The are pictured from the waist up in a dancing pose and wearing Spanish-style costumes.
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/collection/hero_image03-2019/cc-hero-image-new.jpg

Strictly Ballroom

Strictly Ballroom

The quirky, low-budget Aussie film that became a global smash.

Strictly Ballroom, released in August 1992, set Baz Luhrmann on a path to worldwide success, and launched the careers of Paul Mercurio and Tara Morice.

Consistently ranked in the top ten among Australia films at the all-time box office, the film is now considered an Australian classic. 

We celebrate its phenomenal success by sharing exclusive interviews, original costume sketches, posters and production documents from our collection.

Strictly Ballroom: Exclusive Interview with Paul Mercurio and Tara Morice, 2017
Year:
Year

An exclusive interview with the stars of Strictly Ballroom (1992), Tara Morice and Paul Mercurio, talking with the NFSA in 2017, 25 years after the film's release.

Strictly Ballroom extended trailer
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
141624
Courtesy:
M&A Film Corporation
Year:
Year

An early two-minute trailer for Strictly Ballroom that previewed the film before its release in Australian cinemas on 20 August 1992.

The film tells the story of a championship ballroom dancer (Paul Mercurio) who, with his 'ugly-duckling-turned-beautiful-swan' dancing partner (Tara Morice), breaks all the rules, urging a belief that 'a life lived in fear is a life half-lived'.

The Movie Show: Strictly Ballroom at Cannes
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
253864
Year:
Year

In this excerpt from episode 92/13 of SBS's The Movie Show, presenter Margaret Pomeranz interviews director Baz Luhrmann and actor Paul Mercurio about the stunning reception that Strictly Ballroom received at the 1992 Cannes Film Festival. Strictly Ballroom screened in the Un Certain Regard section and won the Festival's Award of the Youth for Foreign Film.

The interviews were conducted the morning after the film's midnight screening at Cannes where it received a lengthy standing ovation. The Cannes Film Festival was the launching pad for the film's phenomenal success. This clip shows, through the reactions of the director and star of the low-budget Australian film, that Strictly Ballroom was shaping up to be a surprise hit across the globe and signalled the beginning of a new era in Australian cinema.

Paul Mercurio and Tara Morice talk about learning flamenco

Paul Mercurio and Tara Morice talk about learning to dance flamenco with dancer Antonio Vargas, who played Fran's father in Strictly Ballroom (1992). 

Nigel Giles interviewed Paul Mercurio in 2014 for the NFSA’s Oral History program (NFSA title: 1227198).

Alice Ansara interviewed Tara Morice in 2011 for the NFSA's Oral History program (NFSA title: 1062002).

Hand drawn sketch of a Spanish style black and red dress with a ruffled skirt.
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/image/image07-2017/costume-sketch_fran.jpg
Costume sketch of Fran's Paso Doble Costume
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
348281
Year:
Year

Angus Strathie's sketch of the red and black beaded dress worn by Fran (Tara Morice) in the final scenes of Strictly Ballroom

Paul Mercurio and Tara Morice talk ballroom dancing

Tara Morice and Paul Mercurio talk about dance rehearsals for the film and learning ballroom dancing styles. 

Alice Ansara interviewed Tara Morice in 2011 for the NFSA's Oral History program (NFSA title: 1062002).

Nigel Giles interviewed Paul Mercurio in 2014 for the NFSA’s Oral History program (NFSA title: 1227198).

John O'Connell on working with actors
Year:
Year

Strictly Ballroom choreographer, John 'Cha Cha' O'Connell, talks about the techniques he uses when working with actors. 

John O'Connell on filming the final dance scene of Strictly Ballroom
Year:
Year

Strictly Ballroom choreographer, John 'Cha Cha' O'Connell, recalls the first day of the shoot and filming the final dance scene at a real ballroom dancing competition. 

Tara Morice talks about recording Time After Time
Year:
Year

Tara Morice talks about recording Cyndi Lauper's classic song 'Time After Time' for the official Strictly Ballroom movie soundtrack in an exclusive interview with the NFSA.

Creating the look of Strictly Ballroom
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
253990
Year:
Year

Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin talk about creating the look of Strictly Ballroom in a behind-the-scenes interview about the making of the film.

John Paul Young talks about Strictly Ballroom
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
794555
Year:
Year

Singer John Paul Young talks about re-recording his hit song 'Love is in the Air' for the soundtrack of Strictly Ballroom (1992) and his reaction to seeing footage from the film for the first time.

Nick Weare interviewed John Paul Young for the NFSA's Oral History program in 2009.

Strictly Ballroom wins at the 1992 AFI Awards
Year:
Year

This compilation highlights the award winners from Strictly Ballroom at the 1992 AFI (Australian Film Institute) Awards ceremony. The film was nominated for 13 AFIs and danced away with 8 awards. 

Wins included: 

Best Editing, Jill Bilcock
Best Costume Design, Angus Strathie
Best Production Design, Catherine Martin and Bill Marron
Best Supporting Actress, Pat Thompson
Best Supporting Actor, Barry Otto
Best Screenplay, Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce
Best Direction, Baz Luhrmann
Best Film, Tristram Miall

Other nominations included:

Best Lead Actress, Tara Morice
Best Lead Actor, Paul Mercurio
Best Supporting Actress, Gia Carides
Best Sound, Bruce Brown, Roger Savage and Ben Osmo
Best Cinematography, Steve Mason.

John Paul Young at the 1992 AFI Awards
Year:
Year

John Paul Young performs his hit song 'Love is in the Air (Ballroom Mix)' live at the closing of the 1992 AFI Awards ceremony.

Originally released in 1977, 'Love is in the Air' was a Top 10 hit for John Paul Young in Australia, the UK and US. The 'Ballroom Mix' featured on the soundtrack to Strictly Ballroom (1992) and returned the song to the Australian Top 10 in 1992.

'Love is in the Air' by Vanda/Young, Performed by John Paul Young © Boomerang Investments Pty Ltd admin by BMG AM Pty Ltd, Licensed courtesy of BMG AM Pty Ltd.

https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/exhibition_component/background_image08-2017/strictlyslides_awards_c_r3.jpg
Strictly Ballroom - AFI Awards

At the 1992 AFI (Australian Film Institute) Awards, Strictly Ballroom received 13 nominations and won 8 awards, including Best Film and Best Director.

Strictly Ballroom: 'I want to dance with you'
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
141624
Courtesy:
M&A Film Corporation
Year:
Year

Scott (Paul Mercurio) dances alone while Fran (Tara Morice) watches from a hidden vantage point. She tells him that she likes his rule-breaking style and wants to partner him at the Pan Pacific championships.

Strictly Ballroom: Scott breaks the rules
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
141624
Courtesy:
M&A Film Corporation
Year:
Year

Ballroom dancing officials Les Kendall (Peter Whitford) and Barry Fife (Bill Hunter) sternly recall how Scott Hastings (Paul Mercurio) used 'unorthodox, crowd-pleasing moves’ at the championships. Scott’s mother Shirley (Pat Thomson) and his partner Liz (Gia Carides) express disbelief. Onlooker Fran (Tara Morice) admires Scott’s style.

Strictly Ballroom: Triumph
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
141624
Courtesy:
M&A Film Corporation
Year:
Year

At the Pan Pacific championships, Doug Hastings (Barry Otto) starts a handclap in support of son Scott (Paul Mercurio) and his partner Fran (Tara Morice). Scott and Fran give a thrilling exhibition of their rule-breaking paso doble. The crowd goes wild.

NFSA Restores: Strictly Ballroom was selected to screen as part of Cannes Classics at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival. It also screened at the 2022 Sydney Film Festival. Learn more about the restoration.

A page of quotes from Paul Mercurio, star of Strictly Ballroom, from a brochure promoting the release of the film and introducing its lead actor
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/08-2017/541561_0002_005.jpg
Introducing Paul Mercurio
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
541561
Year:
Year

An extract from a booklet introducing Paul Mercurio, the star of Strictly Ballroom, to media and promoting the release of the film in Australia in August 1992. This page features quotes from Paul about director Baz Luhrmann and his dancing career.

At 29, Mercurio had extensive experience as dancer and choreographer including as part of the West Australian Ballet Company and the Australian Ballet School.

Love Is In The Air (Ballroom Mix)
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
1485998
Courtesy:
M&A Film Corporation
Albert Productions
Year:
Year

Official video clip of the Ballroom Mix version of 'Love is in the Air' performed by John Paul Young for the movie Strictly Ballroom

'Love is in the Air' by Vanda/Young, Performed by John Paul Young © Boomerang Investments Pty Ltd admin by BMG AM Pty Ltd, Licensed courtesy of BMG AM Pty Ltd.

Time After Time by Tara Morice and Mark Williams
Courtesy:
Laneway Music
Year:
Year

Tara Morice and Mark Williams perform 'Time After Time' for the official soundtrack to the film Strictly Ballroom

David Hirschfelder talks Strictly Ballroom
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
1063005
Year:
Year

Composer David Hirschfelder talks about his work on the film Strictly Ballroom (1992). 

As well as composing numerous scores for Australian films and TV, David has twice been nominated for Best Original Score at the Oscars (for Shine, 1996 and Elizabeth, 1998). Strictly Ballroom was his first film composing credit.

Graham Dodsworth interviewed David Hirschfelder for the NFSA's Oral History program in 2012.

An invitation card to the 1992 Cannes Film Festival screenings of Strictly Ballroom
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/08-2017/cannes_invitation-card.jpg
Strictly Ballroom Cannes Film festival screenings
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
347656
Year:
Year

An invitation card with details of the screening details for Strictly Ballroom at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1992.

Strictly Ballroom poster with images of Tara Morice, Paul Mercurio and Sonia Kruger
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/08-2017/350675_1114.jpg
Strictly Ballroom alternate Australian poster
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
350675
Year:
Year

An alternate Australian poster design prepared for the home viewing release of Strictly Ballroom and based on the successful US marketing campaign for the film. 

This is a very bold and eye-catching poster with three dramatically cropped and striking faces. Framing these faces is the film's title in large, yellow block text at the top and bottom of the poster. The text attracts the viewer like a newspaper hoarding. The expressions on the faces of the three people effectively conveys some of the strongest moods in the film - seduction, determination and humour - even if they do not actually provide any indication of the film's storyline.The additional text at the very top of the poster, 'Wildly Original, Daringly Different, Totally Outrageous', if not matching the faces precisely, enhances the dramatic quality of the poster. The text at the bottom, 'Tradition Bites the Dust', is somewhat flippant but effectively sums up the film's central storyline. The poster is a tightly constructed and well thought-out design.

Paul Mercurio and Tara Morice in a dance pose from the film Strictly Ballroom. Above the two actors is the BAFTA logo, Golden Globes logo and a list of the film's nominees and winners from those awards ceremonies.
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/exhibition_component/background_image08-2017/strictlyslides_awards_b_r2.jpg
Strictly Ballroom - international awards

An infographic showing Strictly Ballroom's nominations and awards received from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) and the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (Golden Globes).

Swedish poster for Strictly Ballroom featuring images of Paul Mercurio, Tara Morice and Antonio Vargas
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/08-2017/poster_swedish_crop.jpg
Strictly Ballroom Swedish poster
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
1125189
Year:
Year

Swedish one-sheet film poster for Strictly Ballroom, released in that country on 11 December 1992 with the subtitle 'De förbjudna stegen' ('The forbidden steps').

The tagline on the poster roughly translates to: 'He - rebel, violates unwritten laws. She - in love, ready to sacrifice everything.'

This poster from Sweden seems to defy Strictly Ballroom's overriding camp and kitsch aesthetic. The stark central image of Paul Mercurio is photographed against a black background and mimics Renaissance chiaroscuro painting techniques. Chiaroscuro uses strong tonal contrasts between light and dark to model three-dimensional forms, often to dramatic effect. It's a beautiful image but a bit incongruous if you've seen the film. The film's title continues this idea with its overly florid font. Anyone could be forgiven for thinking the film is set in the late 15th century. It is only the three frames from the film running down the right-hand side of the poster that informs us the film is set in the present day. The subtitle and taglines on the poster almost recast Strictly Ballroom as a modern take on Romeo and Juliet while suggesting that the film will have some steamy sexual scenes. This could potentially confuse or disappoint audiences who decided to see the film solely on the basis of the poster.

Hand drawn sketch of a men's ballroom dancing costume in a scrapbook alongside inspirational photographs of other ballroom dancing outfits.
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/image/image07-2017/costume-sketch_scott.jpg
Costume sketch of Scott's Samba Costume
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
348281
Year:
Year

Hand-drawn sketch of a men's ballroom dancing costume in a scrapbook alongside inspirational photographs of other ballroom dancing outfits. This costume was worn in Strictly Ballroom by the character Scott Hastings, played by Paul Mercurio. Angus Strathie was the credited costume designer for the film.

French film poster for Strictly Ballroom AKA Ballroom Dancing with tagline 'Delire total!'
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/08-2017/1482608_0002.jpg
Strictly Ballroom French poster
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
1482608
Year:
Year

French film poster for Strictly Ballroom, where it was released as Ballroom Dancing on 2 September 1992. 

Though rather dark, this poster is very effective in capturing the tone of the film. Strictly Ballroom is noted for its camp and glitzy aesthetic and this poster successfully promotes this through its use of numerous artificial starbursts and glamour portraits. Paul Mercurio as the lead actor dominates the poster striking a dramatic pose which is taken from the climax of the film. His dancing partner, Tara Morice, looks seductively over her shoulder. Supporting cast members (Barry Otto, Sonia Kruger and Gia Carides) appear in kitsch star shapes. The film's French title, Ballroom Dancing, is printed in a jaunty, bouncing font meant to simulate movement - up and down, forwards and backwards. This concept is successful given that the film centres around dance. What is odd, however, is the white text at the top of the poster. The stark, blocky white font of 'Delire total' (total delirium) seems out of place and somewhat unsympathetic to the rest of the poster's design.

Producer Tristram Miall talks about Baz Luhrmann
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
1060241
Year:
Year

In this excerpt from an interview with producer Tristram Miall, he talks about hiring first-time director Baz Luhrmann for the film Strictly Ballroom (1992).

Geoff Gardner interviewed Tristram Miall for the NFSA's Oral History program in 2012.

An annotated diagram of dance steps for man and woman dancing partners, part of the promotional materials supporting the release of the film Strictly Ballroom in 1992
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/08-2017/512291_0002_002.jpg
Strictly Ballroom dance steps
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
512291
Year:
Year

An annotated diagram of dance steps, part of the promotional materials for the release of Strictly Ballroom in 1992. It includes the positioning of left and right foot for gentleman and lady dance partners.

Hand drawn sketch of a women's ballroom dancing costume for the film Strictly Ballroom
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/08-2017/costume-sketch_liz.jpg
Costume sketch of Liz Holt's yellow ballroom gown
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
348281
Year:
Year

Angus Strathie's costume sketch for a yellow ballroom gown worn in Strictly Ballroom by the character Liz Holt, played by Gia Carides.

Strictly Ballroom movie poster featuring large head and shoulders image of Paul Mercurio in gold bolero jacket, and other characters in the background. The movie title is written in a large red and yellow cursive font.
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/07-2017/poster_australian.jpg
Strictly Ballroom movie poster
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
1488898
Year:
Year

The Australian one-sheet film poster for Strictly Ballroom featuring Paul Mercurio, Tara Morice, Gia Carides and Barry Otto.

Costume sketches of a ballroom gown for the film Strictly Ballroom
https://www.nfsa.gov.au/sites/default/files/08-2017/costume-sketch_kylie.jpg
Costume sketch of Kylie's pink ballgown
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
348281
Year:
Year

Angus Strathie's costume sketch for a pink ballroom gown worn in Strictly Ballroom by Kylie (played by Lauren Hewitt). The sketch is accompanied by photos of dress details to inspire the completed design.

Strictly Ballroom: 'A microcosm for the world at large'
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
1485998
Year:
Year

Director Baz Luhrmann introduces us to the themes behind his first feature film, Strictly Ballroom, in this behind-the-scenes video interview from 1992. 

Strictly Ballroom film trailer
NFSA-ID:
NFSA ID
141624
Courtesy:
M&A Film Corporation
Year:
Year

A short film trailer for Strictly Ballroom, ahead of its release in Australian cinemas on 20 August 1992.