The Last Ty­coon stars Old Hol­ly­wood

Matt Bomer and Kelsey Gram­mer play movie moguls in adap­ta­tion of F. Scott Fitzger­ald’s novel

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - PA­TRICK RYAN

NEW YORK — Ama­zon is pick­ing up the pen where F. Scott Fitzger­ald left off.

On Fri­day, the stream­ing ser­vice pre­mières its 10-episode adap­ta­tion of the lit­er­ary gi­ant’s un­fin­ished novel “The Last Ty­coon,” which traces the ca­reers of two Hol­ly­wood moguls (played by Matt Bomer and Kelsey Gram­mer) in the late 1930s.

Talk­ing to ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Joshua D. Mau­rer mid­way through the shoot, “I was like, ‘Hey, Josh, when did we di­vert from the orig­i­nal book?’” Gram­mer re­calls. “And he was like, ‘Oh, God, a long time ago.’ The beauty of an un­fin­ished novel is you get to fin­ish it.”

Much of the ter­rain of Fitzger­ald’s book, pub­lished posthu­mously in 1941, is cov­ered in the first episode, which in­tro­duces the dap­per Mon­roe Stahr (Bomer), a young man from a poor Jewish fam­ily in New York who worked his way up to be­come one of the most pow­er­ful pro­duc­ers in Tin­sel­town.

His knack for spot­ting tal­ent and res­cu­ing even the most un­sal­vage­able movies wins him the re­spect — and envy — of stu­dio head Pat Brady (Gram­mer), while his gen­til­ity and charm earn the af­fec­tions of Pat’s doe-eyed daugh­ter, Celia (Lily Collins), an as­pir­ing pro­ducer.

But Mon­roe — whom Fitzger­ald mod­elled af­ter “Boy Won­der” Hol­ly­wood pro­ducer Irv­ing Thal­berg — has many rea­sons for bury­ing him­self in work. Chief among them: the death of his wife, star­let Minna Davis (Jes­sica De Gouw), and a con­gen­i­tal heart de­fect that could take his life at any mo­ment.

“From the day he was born, he’s been re­minded of how im­per­ma­nent he is,” Bomer says. “He’s some­one try­ing to put (his) stamp on the world and achieve some kind of im­mor­tal­ity. That to me was in­ter­est­ing, his per­fec­tion­ism and need to bring art to the world in­stead of just com­merce.”

His artis­tic in­tegrity clashes with the more prag­matic out­look of Pat, his surly father fig­ure at the fic­tional Brady Amer­i­can Pic­tures. The char­ac­ter — loosely based on MGM co-founder Louis B. Mayer — faces mount­ing pres­sure to make prof­itable pic­tures dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion and ap­pease in­ter­na­tional buy­ers from Europe, where ris­ing fas­cism has a choke­hold on en­ter­tain­ment.

Mon­roe is “like the crea­ture he cre­ated, and also the kid that he loves,” Gram­mer says. “There’s this bat­tle about it. He has to say, ‘Don’t get out of line, this is my stu­dio.’ But he also knows Mon­roe has some­thing that he doesn’t, so he’s prac­ti­cal. He un­der­stands that guy has an eye for mak­ing a movie that he hasn’t got.”

Nei­ther ac­tor had read “The Last Ty­coon” be­fore se­ries creator Billy Ray (“Cap­tain Phillips”) sent them scripts, al­though both were fa­mil­iar with the 1976 movie ver­sion that starred Robert De Niro and Robert Mitchum. The stars re­vis­ited some of their favourite ’30s movies prior to shoot­ing, and say they be­came nos­tal­gic for the glitz and guar­an­tees of yes­ter­year.

“There are cer­tainly as­pects of be­ing who I am that would have been a lot more dif­fi­cult, so I don’t envy that at all,” says Bomer, who is openly gay.

“But there was a cer­tain safety in the stu­dio sys­tem. You didn’t have the kind of artis­tic free­dom of get­ting to choose what­ever you want to do; they fig­ured out your for­mula and you stuck to that.”

AARON EP­STEIN, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Matt Bomer, left, and Kelsey Gram­mer play pro­ducer Mon­roe Stahr and stu­dio head Pat Brady in “The Last Ty­coon.” It’s based on an F. Scott Fitzger­ald novel pub­lished in 1941 af­ter his death.

ADAM ROSE, TNS

Lily Collins and Matt Bomer in “The Last Ty­coon.”

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