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