Robert Luketic spent a sleepless night before the first day of shooting Legally Blonde;
"I was terrified," he says now looking quite unterrified beside the pool at the
Royal Pines Resort on The Gold Coast, on the eve of the film’s Australian release.
"There were 200 people on the set . . ." Somewhat more than he was used to at
film school in Melbourne (at the VCA).
"But then as it went on, that army of people and the whole process became somehow
liberating – I was able to focus on directing and not have to worry about anything
else. And while there were always limits and bounds, that’s just what it was like at
film school. They taught us well. I soon realised I was working just as I had always
But it wasn’t his film schooling alone that propelled Luketic: it was his striking
short film, Titsiana Booberini, which got him noticed at festivals like Sundance.
(Titsiana Booberini is about a ridiculed check-out chick with a moustache whose life
changes when she dicovers hair remover.)
"I’m unashamedly a commercial filmmaker,"
Luketic, now 30, had waited three years for the success of his short film to turn into
gold. Legally Blonde, which has taken over US$100 million at the American box office
before its Australian release, was just one of hundreds of scripts that had been sent to
him since Titsiana Booberini screened at Sundance. (And he has kept them all!)
"I’m unashamedly a commercial filmmaker," he says, "and I was looking
for a breakthrough film. Not that I expected it to be a $100 million breakthrough! And now
I’m being allowed to read scripts that I wasn’t before. Big budget films. . .
." His next film will be something very different - may be a science fiction action
number, he says with a cheeky grin.
Legally Blonde is the funny and sometimes touching story of Elle Woods. Dumped by
prospective law student Warner Huntington III (Matthew Davis) as a liability for her lack
of seriousness that would damage his prestige law career, Elle (Reese Witherspoon) sets
out to get into Harvard Law School to prove she is more than a blonde bimbo.
"It’s silly and irrelevant and is a picture of heightened reality," says
Luketic unassumingly, "but sometimes it gets real." And that’s why it
works; the film manages the balance between having something serious to say (always be
true to yourself) and having some fun with blondes. Reese Witherspoon’s sensational
performance makes the film the success it is – without wishing to take away from
Luketic’s direction. "Ah look, we all worked very closely and with mutual
respect," he says. "I always listened. I’m not a dictator on the set and I
didn’t try to make MY movie, They’re all very talented people and my job was to
bring it out of them."
That’s why Luketic "knew on page five of the script that I wanted Reese to
play Elle. We met at a hotel on Sunset Boulevrad and discussed the film . . .we were both
concerned about some aspects, like how can the audience feel sorry for a rich girl driving
a Porsche; and she had to dress in a very particular way that wasn’t distracting or
offputting… And every decision came from a certain innocence [of the
'Things develop in ways you can’t anticipate'
The end result came after "something like 10 drafts of the script. I worked with
the writers (Kirsten Smith, Karen McCullah Lutz, working from Amanda Brown’s novel)
who stayed on after we started shooting," says Luketic. "And we’d have
re-thinks and re-writes, often in the middle of the night. I remember Jane Campion coming
to the VCA to lecture and saying that a film was like a baby that needs feeding and
nurturing. Things develop in ways you can’t anticipate."
Published October 11, 2001