While best known as a filmmaker, Baz Luhrmann also reached the pop charts in 1999 with the spoken word novelty hit "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)." A native of Australia, Luhrmann attended the prestigious National Institute of Dramatic Arts in Sydney, making his film debut in front of the camera in 1982's The Winter of Our Dreams; a role in The Dark Room followed two years later. In 1986, he wrote and directed the stage play Strictly Ballroom, which his independent theatrical troupe the Six Years Old Company revived internationally on numerous occasions in the years to follow; additional Luhrmann stage productions of the period included an update of La Boheme and the musical Crocodile Creek. In 1992, Luhrmann wrote and directed the film version of Strictly Ballroom, an international smash that earned eight Australian Film Institute Awards, three British Academy Awards, and the Cannes Film Festival's Prix de Jeuness.
After first tackling the Bard in 1994 with an Australian Opera production of A Midsummer's Night's Dream, in 1996 he scored another film hit with William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, a hip, contemporary retelling of the classic love story starring teen heartthrob Leonardo DiCaprio. Three years later, Luhrmann released the album Something for Everybody, a collection of ambient-styled recordings of themes from his films; the spoken word single "Everybody's Free (To Wear Sunscreen)," based on the proclamations of a widely disseminated e-mail mistakenly attributed as a collegiate commencement speech delivered by author Kurt Vonnegut, became a surprise hit that spring. ~ Jason Ankeny