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What Baz Luhrmann Can’t Live Without

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist; Photo: Sansho Scott, BFA; Illustration: joe McKendry

If you’re like us, you’ve probably wondered what famous people add to their carts. Not the JAR brooch and Louis XV chair but the hair spray and the electric toothbrush. We asked director Baz Luhrmann — who recently collaborated with Bombay Sapphire on an art-meets-AI installation called “Saw This, Made This — about the designer backpack he travels with, putty he uses as earplugs, and coffee-table-size Post-its he uses for his creative process.

These are both part of my creative process. When I create, I take over large rooms with lots of white wall space. Then, we paint the entire space with Think Paint, which turns the walls into a surface I can write on with a marker, like a dry-erase board. On one wall, I write out lists of research questions and key information. On another wall, I have literally thousands of images. The stickies — we call them “big stickies” and they’re about the size of a coffee table — are for new ideas. I can walk from left to right and look at a visual artwork as I’m structuring a story. It’s a bit like the inside of my mind, which I know is a scary thought. When I was doing Elvis, I actually had a room like this at Graceland in the barn.

The first time I went to Cannes about 30 or 35 years ago, I got to the airport, didn’t have my passport, and missed the opening ceremony. I had to go back to the London ambassadorship and then back to Cannes. From that day on, I needed a failproof system. My team calls this unaccompanied child. I don’t know if you have this in the U.S., but if you’re a kid flying in Australia, they put this big thing around your neck with a picture of you that’s like a passport. I’m sure my team doesn’t actually think I’m a child, but they’re all laughing at me here as I’m speaking to you. Unaccompanied child — my Porter passport holder — has all my crucial cards. When I’m traveling, it’s the first thing I put on and last thing that comes off when I arrive, and it goes straight in the safe.

I know these are kind of hip, but I love that they are the perfect travel footwear. One, they’re amazingly comfortable. Two, they’re easy to kick off. I travel so much, and if there’s one thing that drives me crazy, it’s taking my shoes off in the TSA line. I can even kick these up and catch them. Because I’m known to wear these, friends and family often gift them to me for birthdays. I have an almost embarrassing array of them, but the midnight blue ones are my standard fit.


This backpack has been around at least 20 years. I continue to always use it for travel because it’s made of a really tough canvas, it has several internal pockets, and it’s really simple. When I travel, my team packs everything the exact same way, so I know when the Yves Saint Laurent boards with me that all my essentials are close by. It’s like my security blanket.

I’m an insomniac, and I fly all the time. The two most important things when I’m flying are blocking out sound and light. I used to use those standard earplugs. But recently, I had a very, very scary situation where I thought I lost my hearing in one ear. I was wearing children’s earplugs, and unbeknownst to me, one attached to my eardrum. I spent weeks terrified on tour. Everyone was feeding me lines and I was pretending to hear, but I couldn’t. Turns out, the earplug was stuck on my eardrum. The surgeon who removed it shared a tip that rock-and-roll drummers do. You know that squishy stuff you use to put paintings up on walls? Drummers use that instead of earplugs. You place it in, it forms in your ear, it comes out really clean, and you throw it away. It’s a much safer and cleaner option for blocking sound out of your ear.

Although I do use electronics, I have to see things physically. In my shoulder bag, I carry this little golden book made in Japan that has a diary. And I always have this tiny wooden Japanese pencil by Ohto, because it fits in the back of the notebook. I make crucial notes of things I must not forget. I photograph notes and my schedule on my phone too, but unless I actually write it down myself, I don’t remember things. I’m sort of old school and new school in that way — I guess a bit like my movies. I take something very old and sort of reinvent it.

The brilliant Mary Schmich wrote the song “Wear Sunscreen” that I made a version and record of. It’s partially a metaphor, but also, the sun is the most dangerous thing in Australia. My father passed away from melanoma, so I’m very conscious of the dangers caused by the sun. This one’s great because it has SPF, but it’s also extremely hydrating. It doubles as a good moisturizer.

Paspaley is one of the great pearl farmers in the world. They’re northern Australian, and their pearls are precious and absolutely unique. They made me a beautiful necklace with “TCB” on it for Elvis. People were always asking me, “Oh my God. Where did you get your pearl necklace from?” It’s become my good-luck necklace now.

From $37

Bombay Sapphire is a really great beginning point for gins. Back when I was producing music with Anton Monsted, either on the album Everybody’s Free (to Wear SUNSCREEN) or working on Moulin Rouge!, he was like, “Oh, you’ve gotta try this gin.” It was great. Now, I’ve become a big martini aficionado and judge a bar by their martinis. I think Bombay is a classic choice. It’s a wonderful canvas for all of the other ingredients to play on.

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What Baz Luhrmann Can’t Live Without