(CNN) -- Even when working at his father's gas station when he was a boy, Baz Luhrmann had an eye for great stories.
"The gas station itself was like an island, and the variety of humanity that would stop, each person had a story... whether there was a family arguing, whether there was a love affair or Christians trying to convert people," he told CNN.
Luhrmann has gone from observing those road-side slices of life to making big screen hits, like "Moulin Rouge" and "Australia", and made a name for himself as an imaginative filmmaker with an eye for the spectacular.
"As a little kid in the middle of nowhere in a tiny country town, I had no problem ... imagining the big story, the big myth, the big adventure. I just go, 'Wouldn't it be great if...' and I always think that'd be easy, that wouldn't be a big deal, that wouldn't cause a stir. Next thing I find myself going down that road, causing a stir, people saying, 'how experimental'."
His breakthrough film "Strictly Ballroom" grossed $80 million at the box office, but until it became a surprise hit of the 1992 Cannes Film Festival, it had been rubbished by distributors in Australia.
The turnaround came when he secured a midday screening for the film at Cannes.
"The following morning we held the record for the most number of sales ever in Cannes by an independent film... and it's a bit like when a moment like that happens, my life has been kind of like a holiday that I've never come home from."
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