Celebrating 25 years of Strictly Ballroom

BY MEL BONDFIELD

'A life lived in fear is a life half lived.'

Twenty-five years ago this August a quirky, low-budget film about ballroom dancers, made by an unknown first-time director, hit cinemas across Australia. 

Now famously known as the first instalment of Baz Luhrmann's 'Red Curtain Trilogy', Strictly Ballroom had humble beginnings as a short play developed by Luhrmann and a group of NIDA students.

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.

Australian one-sheet movie poster for Strictly Ballroom (1992).

After overcoming many obstacles to make it from stage to screen, the film was selected for a midnight screening at the Cannes Film Festival in 1992 where audiences and critics went wild over it. 

On its Australian release that year, Strictly Ballroom lived up to all the hype coming out of Cannes. Aussies fell head over heels in love with Scott (played by Paul Mercurio) and Fran (Tara Morice) and they even embraced the garish make-up, crazy hairstyles and outrageous costumes of the ballroom dancing world.

The film remained on the big screen for over a year, taking more than $21 million at the box office and landing a place in the top ten Australian films in terms of box-office takings. It scooped the pool at the AFI Awards, won three BAFTAs, was nominated for Best Picture at the Golden Globes and received a host of other international film prizes. 

Costume sketches of a ballroom gown for the film Strictly Ballroom

Angus Strathie's costume sketch for a pink ballroom gown worn in Strictly Ballroom (1992).

Twenty-five years later, Strictly Ballroom is still loved by people in Australia and across the globe and is now regarded as an Australian classic. It is studied by high school students around the country and has reached a whole new generation of film lovers. 

The NFSA is celebrating this milestone by going 'behind the curtain' with a new online exhibition and curated collection highlighting some rarely seen collection items.

You'll discover Angus Strathie's gorgeous costume sketches, behind-the-scenes interviews with Catherine Martin and Baz Luhrmann, fascinating oral histories, production documents, plus brand new interviews with the stars of the film.

We hope you enjoy Strictly Ballroom: Behind the Curtain