Movies: Leo talks Gatsby, Baz and Amer­i­can dreams ...

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - PLAY -

HERE’S no doubt Baz Luhrmann’s big-screen adap­ta­tion of F. Scott Fitzger­ald’s 1925 novel The Great Gatsby is gen­er­at­ing hys­te­ria. An­tic­i­pa­tion has been pal­pa­ble since the vis­ceral di­rec­tor of Strictly Ball­room, Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge! an­nounced he was tack­ling the iconic novel.

‘‘It’s al­ways ex­cit­ing be­cause it seems like his projects just en­er­gise au­di­ences. Peo­ple just look at it as an in­cred­i­ble event,’’ says Leonardo DiCaprio, 38, who stars as mys­te­ri­ous mul­ti­mil­lion­aire Jay Gatsby.

‘‘Baz is one of the most in­fec­tious di­rec­tors I’ve ever met as far as his en­thu­si­asm for do­ing great work.’’

He says Luhrmann was the same when, at the age of 18, DiCaprio flew to Aus­tralia ‘‘to do a lit­tle test re­hearsal’’ for Romeo + Juliet. The Shake­spearean clas­sic was moved to a mod­ern-day Venice Beach set­ting for the 1996 movie, star­ring DiCaprio and Home­land’s Claire Danes.

‘‘Baz is a very risky film-maker. He doesn’t take on sim­ple sto­ries and I ad­mire that,’’ DiCaprio says.

Fitzger­ald’s novel fol­lows would-be writer Nick Car­raway, played by one of DiCaprio’s old­est friends, Tobey Maguire, as he leaves the Mid­west and ven­tures to New York City in the spring of 1922.

Chas­ing the Amer­i­can dream, Nick lands next door to the elu­sive and enig­matic party-giv­ing mil­lion­aire Jay Gatsby, and just across the bay from his cousin Daisy (Carey Mul­li­gan) and her phi­lan­der­ing, blue­blooded hus­band Tom Buchanan (Joel Edger­ton).

Drawn into the in­tox­i­cat­ing world of the su­per-rich, Nick, the eter­nal ob­server, nar­rates a tale of im­pos­si­ble love, in­cor­rupt­ible dreams and high-oc­tane tragedy.

Un­like his search for Gatsby’s lost love Daisy, Luhrmann knew from the start that he wanted DiCaprio to play his ‘‘Amer­i­can Ham­let’’.

‘‘You’ve got to have some­one with screen charisma who can also deal with the com­plex­ity of the char­ac­ter, the dark­ness of the char­ac­ter,’’ Luhrmann says.

DiCaprio read the book when he was 15 but didn’t con­nect with it the same way he did as an adult.

‘‘I never re­alised what Daisy rep­re­sented to Gatsby – the fact he was this lost per­son hold­ing on to this relic from the past, this mi­rage that is Daisy Buchanan.’’

For DiCaprio, the tale be­came less of a love story.

The Great Gatsby opens to­day. Re­view, Page 11.

The Great Gatsby.

T‘‘It’s about this ob­sessed man and Daisy be­came a stum­bling block in his great am­bi­tion to be­come a great Amer­i­can. He had to re­pos­sess her, he had to own her and he had to erase the past,’’ he says.

DiCaprio’s more than aware of ex­pec­ta­tions sur­round­ing the new movie.

‘‘Ev­ery time you make a movie you have to be very spe­cific and peo­ple may dis­agree with what you’re do­ing,’’ says DiCaprio, who has known both Maguire and Luhrmann for more than 20 years.

‘‘We were hon­est with one an­other and made this con­tract that no mat­ter what we did cin­e­mat­i­cally, we would try and re­main as true as we could to the novel.’’ DiCaprio says he re­lates to Gatsby’s de­ter­mi­na­tion. ‘‘I do iden­tify cer­tainly with some­one who’s man­i­fested what he wanted (to be­come) as an adult and worked tire­lessly and had such a great am­bi­tion to be­come that,’’ says the three-time Os­car nom­i­nee, who be­gan act­ing when he was 13 years old.

‘‘The truth is my life is dif­fer­ent from Gatsby’s. He is some­one who has erased his past and all his con­nec­tions to his hum­ble be­gin­nings so he could rein­vent him­self as this great oli­garch.

‘‘While ev­ery­one wants to be part of his world and con­nect with him, the great tragedy, at the end, is that once he be­comes tabloid fod­der and peo­ple start in­ves­ti­gat­ing his past, no one wants to be at­tached to him. Nick re­mains his only real friend.’’

DiCaprio on the other hand has ‘‘grown up with great fam­ily and friends sur­round­ing me’’.

‘‘I’ve grown up on screen and in the pub­lic eye but I do feel more com­fort­able than ever be­fore,’’ he says.

‘‘I sup­pose that comes with age and the re­al­i­sa­tion that it’s been this grand jour­ney to ful­fil my child­hood dreams in a lot of ways. I lived in Hol­ly­wood (as a child) and I was some­one who knew about the in­dus­try and wanted to be­come an ac­tor but I was like Nick Car­raway – I never felt like I be­longed.

‘‘So when I got my foot in the door, it felt like win­ning the lot­tery,’’ he says.

– SU­SAN GRIF­FIN

Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mul­li­gan and Joel Edger­ton in

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