Catherine Martin has gone from a childhood watching movies in her Lindfield living room to winning awards on the world stage, most recently scoring two BAFTAs for her work on The Great Gatsby. Alongside her director husband Baz Luhrmann, she has created an immediately identifiable cinematic fingerprint of kaleidoscopic visuals. The pair share a home with their two children in Darlinghurst.
Martin’s next endeavour sees her coming full circle, with a live musical version of Strictly Ballroom, the 1992 film that kick-started her career. She is enjoying being back in her home town for the show. “When you’re surrounded by feathers and sequins and ridiculous Lycra outfits, it’s impossible not to have a smile on your face,” she says.
What was the best thing about growing up in Lindfield?
We used to take off on our bikes and roam the neighbourhood. We had one rule, which was we had to be home by the time the street lights were on. I think that sense of adventure and freedom has served me incredibly well in my life. I am sufficiently wary of dangerous situations, but I’m not scared of having a go.
What is your most meaningful spot in Sydney?
The Opera House is an absolute keystone in my creative career. For anyone who wants to be in the performing arts, it is a symbol of the extraordinary things that can be achieved visually and creatively. Very importantly, it was the scene of one of the first collaborations Baz and I had on [Puccini's opera] La Boheme. The opening night had a standing ovation led by Dame Joan Sutherland – it’s hard to go past that. It was also the scene of our wedding on the stage of the Sydney Opera House. We asked permission and they let us; it was fantastic.
Your favourite sweet treat?
My children’s favourite thing is to con me into buying them ice-cream, if there’s not too big a queue at our local gelataria, Messina [in Darlinghurst]. We often order their incredible cakes for various get-togethers. My children favour the toadstool cake with popping candy. I think my father must have had that cake for his birthday about 65 times. I don’t know what he thinks of it, but they certainly think it’s incredible.
Roseville Cinema has played a huge part in my life. Not only did I see everything there from The Nutcracker to restored Disney prints to The Wizard of Oz, I was also an usherette there as a teenager. And then Strictly Ballroomwent on to play some record-breaking run of two years at Roseville Cinema.
Best weekend breakfast?
Bill’s [in Darlinghurst] because it’s just at the bottom of the hill from our house. And when the feral family, as I call them, are ready for breakfast, it’s an easy hop, skip and a jump. The gravlax is always a winner and my kids love the ricotta hotcakes, though I always find that the honeycomb butter is eaten before anything else.
Where do you go for a family day out?
We have discovered glamping on Cockatoo Island. We absolutely love it. I took my mum and dad; my mum, at 78, had never been camping before. It’s the luxury of being, by ferry, 20 minutes away from the heart of Sydney, but you arrive and you’re a thousand miles from care.
The best place for fashion?
I go to Paddington where Willow, and Camilla and Marc are. You go there and you get a snapshot of what’s actually happening in any given season. I hope that one day the very exciting label Romance was Born will end up in that rich area of Sydney fashion.
Is there a place in town that inspires you?
I always look forward to going for a walk in Rushcutters Bay Park, right down to the bottom where you can look in the clear water of the harbour. I use that time to clear my head and really focus my thoughts.
Strictly Ballroom: The Musical is at the Lyric Theatre from March 25th.