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Strictly Ballroom

Dancing With The Stars judge Paul Mecurio caused an Australasian swoon epidemic in this smash hit romantic comedy from celebrated Aussie director Baz Luhrmann.

Mecurio plays Scott Hastings, a professional ballroom dancer who is the son of a couple of dance school owners. The title of the film refers to the rigid rules surrounding a dance competition, wherein a dancer may not deviate even in the slightest from set dancing routines.

But feeling stifled by said rule, Scott cuts loose at a competition and free forms some improvised moves. This causes a furore among the dancing community and Scott's ambitious dance partner (a hilarious Gia Carides) deserts him.

So against his better judgement, Paul begins to train a proverbial ugly duckling type, Fran (played winningly by Tara Morice), and romantic sparks eventually fly. It all culminates in a rousing competition at the Pan Pacific dance championships.

It's a dramatic arc as old as time - underdog takes on the establishment culminating in a big competition (see Rocky, The Karate Kid etc), but Strictly Ballroom gives in a particular antipodean spin and is undeniably rousing. It also introduced the world to the unique skills of director Baz Luhrmann, unquestionably one of the most creative and exciting directors working today.

Strictly Ballroom is based on a stage play of the same name that Luhrmann developed and also starred in. Several other writers collaborated on the screenplay. The film is the first in Luhrmann's "Red Curtain Trilogy", with the other two films being Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge.

Luhrmann has yet to make a film since the success of Moulin Rouge. He had been developing a biopic about Alexander The Great starring Leonardo DiCaprio, but the failure of the Oliver Stone/Colin Farrell Alexander film has appeared to put the kibosh on that.

Luhrmann recently directed a ridiculously expensive advertisement for Chanel No. 5 which starred his Moulin Rouge muse Nicole Kidman.

Building on the heat generated by Strictly Ballroom, Mecurio had a brief stab at a Hollywood career, which culminated with a role in the unfortunate S & M comedy flop Exit To Eden.

He has worked steadily as an actor and choreographer in Australia since.