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Rumer Willis Helps Bring Baz Luhrmann's Soundtracks to the Stage

Rumer Willis 2013 P
Lewis Payton

In the theatrical series "For the Record," music from four of the auteur's films come to life. "You really have to bring your own voice to it," she tells THR.

Rumer Willis stars in For The Record: Baz Luhrmann, a live re-imagining of four of the director’s films at Rockwell Table and Stage in Los Angeles. The show, which runs until October 19, is part of an ongoing series of events that has so far paid tribute to eight film directors over three years. Producers Shane Scheel and Christopher Lloyd Bratten launched the series as a creative outlet for talented actors in L.A. and have since fostered a community of performers interested in highlighting the power of movie soundtracks.

“We decided to create an evening around the soundtracks to movies,” Scheel says. “Basically a concert that brought the movies to life through song. Immediately people were taking to what we were doing. Over the last three years we’ve evolved into a much larger space, and the show in general has evolved and attracted a lot of amazing talent from around this town. Rumer is the latest edition to it.”

Willis joined the cast as Juliet (from Luhrmann’s 1996 version of Romeo + Juliet) and stars alongside actors like Ginifer King, Milena Govich, Lindsay Pearce and Jason Paige. The actress, who will leave the show for a week of its run to film an episode of Hawaii Five-O, was a last minute replacement for Lindsey Gort, who was recently cast as Samantha Jones in The CW’s The Carrie Diaries.

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“I’ve been a fan of the show and I’ve come to see a couple of different shows -- [Quentin] Tarantino, [Robert] Zemeckis,” Willis tells The Hollywood Reporter. “My boyfriend actually knew [the show’s publicist] separately and introduced me. It happened literally overnight. They said ‘Would you ever think about wanting to be a part of this?’ and I said ‘Yeah, sure let me know when you guys would want me to join in.’ And they said ‘Well, we’re starting rehearsals tomorrow.’”

This edition of For The Record is a new incarnation of the Baz Luhrmann show, which the producers have presented in the past. It will encompass four of the director’s films -- Romeo + Juliet, Strictly Ballroom, Moulin Rouge and The Great Gatsby -- in a cabaret-like performance featuring songs from all the movies. Luhrmann has even given the show his stamp of approval and attended past versions of the show, as have Gary Marshal and Tarantino. For Willis, this is an opportunity to explore an iconic character in a new way.

“We get to bounce around in the shows because they’re all mixed together,” says Willis. “It’s really fun because you’re not just doing the movie. Every character gets to roam between the different films, so you’re not stuck in one thing and it’s really great. To me, with anything like this, especially Baz Luhrmann and, on top of that, Shakespeare, you really have to bring your own voice to it. If you try to copy what someone else has already done or try and make it particular one way you’re always going to have fans that love it or hate it. Your best bet is coming up with your own version and finding your own voice in it.”

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For both the actors and the producers, the draw of For The Record is its communal sensibility, offering performers a place to expand their creative voices in Hollywood beyond film and TV.

“This whole thing has become a family of performers and really become a community in itself,” Scheel says. “People who have done past shows with us are always so supportive and helpful to make these things run. We’re all scrounging for costumes in our closets. It’s really a group effort to make these things happen.”

Adds Willis: “This has been a very interesting experience for me. I did a lot of theater when I was younger but nothing at this level. And I have to say the environment that they’ve created is so welcoming, and they’re there to help me succeed. It’s such a supportive and wonderful environment where there’s an incredible amount of talent and really amazing people. I’m getting a big education while doing something that’s really fun.”

For The Record: Baz Luhrmann opens on Aug. 22 and runs through Oct. 19. Weekly performances are held Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 p.m. Tickets range from $25 general admission to $55 for VIP seating.

Twitter: @THRMusic