LOS ANGELES, March 5 (UPI) -- Although he was overlooked for a best director Oscar nomination, Baz Luhrmann doesn't mind so much -- after all, his Oscar-nominated movie, "Moulin Rouge," won the Producers Guild of America's top film award, its star, Nicole Kidman, is up for a best actress Oscar, and Hollywood has rediscovered the movie musical.
The PGA's Darryl F. Zanuck Producer of the Year Award has proved to be somewhat predictive of the best picture Oscar. Nine of the award's 12 winners have gone on to take the top Oscar.
Kidman won a Golden Globe for her performance as the glamorous but tragic courtesan, Satine, in Luhrmann's assault-on-the-senses tale of dancehall Paris at the dawn of the 20th century. She is up against some stiff competition for the Oscar -- including Judi Dench ("Iris") and the oddsmakers' favorite, Sissy Spacek ("In the Bedroom").
But, as they say in Hollywood, it's an honor just to be nominated.
It's an honor that Academy voters did not see fit to bestow upon Luhrmann, choosing instead to nominate Robert Altman ("Gosford Park"), Ron Howard ("A Beautiful Mind"), Peter Jackson ("The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring"), David Lynch ("Mulholland Drive") and Ridley Scott ("Black Hawk Down").
Luhrmann -- who is nominated for the Directors Guild of America's feature film honor -- conceded that he didn't feel so good at first about being left off the Oscars list.
"Yes, I was disappointed in the moment," he said. "Ten minutes later when Nicole was nominated I was happy."
He was even happier when his movie was nominated for best picture.
"When a musical was nominated for the first time in 20 years I was in another place," said Luhrmann. "My singular mission has been to find a way to make the movie musical work in this time and place."
There is ample evidence that Luhrmann and his team found what they were looking for.
"Moulin Rouge" was not the giant box-office hit that 20th Century Fox had hoped for, grossing less than $60 million domestically, with a production cost reported at $40 million. But factor in home video sales well in excess of the U.S. box office number and a worldwide box-office gross estimated at more than $170 million, and the project easily qualifies as a commercial success.
Luhrmann imagines studio executives sharing a common reaction to the movie's marketplace performance: "It made money?"
The director of "Strictly Ballroom" (1992) and "William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet" (1996) said the numbers were enough to persuade producers to get more musicals on the drawing boards.
He cited the upcoming movie version of the Broadway musical "Chicago," as well as recently announced plans to mount stage versions of "Strictly Ballroom" and "Moulin Rouge."
Last week Fox came up with a new wrinkle on movie ad blurbs -- replacing critics' comments with endorsements for "Moulin Rouge" from veteran movie musical directors Robert Wise ("The Sound of Music"), Stanley Donen ("Singin' in the Rain"), and George Sydney ("Bye Bye Birdie"). Luhrmann said movie musical stars Cyd Charisse and Debbie Reynolds would be featured in future ads with kind words about Kidman's performance.
But Luhrmann said Hollywood has not entirely gotten in touch with its movie musical heritage.
"'Singin' in the Rain' is having its 50th anniversary this month and there's not much noise about it," he said.
Fox does not seem to be jumping at the chance to exploit Sunday's PGA award. The studio might be keeping its powder dry, waiting for a more timely occasion to capitalize on the award, but as of Tuesday Fox had yet to run an ad for the movie in Los Angeles papers crowing about the honor.
Being nominated by the DGA took some of the sting out of being overlooked for the Oscar, said Luhrmann, especially since the DGA award is determined entirely by a vote of his peers. In any case, Luhrmann said he doesn't want to get too hung up on the awards game.
"If I look back at that, I'm falling into the terrible trap of living for that," he said. "The trick is if you live by that you die by it. You start chasing it, wondering, 'When am I going to get nominated?'"
Anyway, as producer of "Moulin Rouge," Luhrmann is up for a producing Oscar and his wife, Catherine Martin, is up for two Oscars -- for art direction and costume design.
Luhrmann has been a tireless advocate of "Moulin Rouge" on the promotion trail. Now he's out there with another mission, to promote the DVD release of "Strictly Ballroom."
The package does not feature the sort of "never-before-seen" footage that many DVD releases offer, said Luhrmann, because the movie itself was such a low-budget production.
"Virtually every frame I shot is in the movie," he said.
Set against the world of ballroom dancing in Luhrmann's native Australia, the movie stars Paul Mercurio as a young dancer groomed to be a champion who gives it all up so he can break away from stodgy convention and perform his own dance steps.
Luhrmann made the movie in response to what he described as the oppressive nature of the ballroom world he knew when he was a young dancer -- when dance teachers and studios discouraged innovation because it threatened their livelihoods.
"'Strictly Ballroom' is not about ballroom dancing," said Luhrmann. "'Strictly Ballroom' is about overturning oppression. You could set it in the world of ice skating, I daresay. A lot of choreographers in ballroom dancing work in ice skating now."
Coming after his MTV-style approach on "William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet," "Moulin Rouge" is the capper on what Luhrmann has come to call his "red curtain" period -- a reference to the intense theatricality of the movies.
He is currently working on a staging of La Bohème in San Francisco. He has no idea what he will do after that -- but he expects it will be something completely different from the big, splashy projects he has made his reputation on.
"I might do a psychological drama with two people over one weekend in a kitchen," he said, although he quickly added that type of project was "not likely."
Luhrmann -- who insists on mounting his own projects rather being a hired hand for someone else -- said he has enough possible projects on his drawing board to occupy him for the rest of his life.
In the meantime, win or lose on Oscars night, he's satisfied that "Moulin Rouge" has proved that there is a market for movie musicals.
"Nothing can change that," he said.