In­spired cast­ing could bring Hol­ly­wood ac­claim for a Bol­ly­wood ti­tan

Yorkshire Post - Culture & The Guide - - STAGE - TONY EARN­SHAW

THE en­ter­tain­ment world is abuzz about the start of shoot­ing on a $120m 3D ver­sion of F Scott Fitzger­ald’s The Great Gatsby.

Film­ing be­gan ear­lier this week in Syd­ney with Baz ( Moulin Rouge!) Luhrmann at the helm. Leonardo DiCaprio will play Jay Gatsby, Carey Mul­li­gan will be Daisy Buchanan, Tobey Maguire will be Nick Car­raway and the great In­dian star Amitabh Bachchan will be Gatsby’s shad­owy part­ner, Wolf­sheim.

It’s a mouth-wa­ter­ing cast that au­gurs well. Cer­tainly it has more ve­rac­ity to it than the leg­endary pitch made in the 1970s when pro­duc­ers saw the per­fect star pack­age as be­ing Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw.

The Gatsby/Luhrmann/Fitzger­ald tri­umvi­rate is also proof pos­i­tive that there is still in­ter­est in, and de­mand for, the great sto­ries of the past. The re­lease this week of the umpteenth ver­sion of Jane Eyre is part of that, show­ing that au­di­ences don’t just want comic strip adap­ta­tions and chick flicks.

But, wait a minute; isn’t The Great Gatsby a clas­sic piece of chick lit? Look at the pre­vi­ous movie ver­sions for proof: Warner Bax­ter and Lois Wil­son in 1926; Alan Ladd and Betty Field in 1949; Robert Red­ford and Mia Far­row in 1974 in the ver­sion originally pitched to McQueen and MacGraw.

Luhrmann has de­scribed The Great Gatsby as “the per­fectly struc­tured novella”. Film­ing in Aus­tralia – the story is set on Long Is­land – means some sig­nif­i­cant set build­ing and lo­ca­tion choices.

But it’s the cast­ing that is get­ting ev­ery­one chat­ter­ing. DiCaprio re­mains a pop­u­lar A-list star – as pop­u­lar with stu­dios as he is with pun­ters. Mul­li­gan is en­joy­ing her mo­ment in the sun with ma­jor roles in some in­tel­li­gent dra­mas. Maguire seems happy hav­ing left be­hind Spi­der­man for more ma­ture fare.

Then there is Bachchan. Once named the Star of the Mil­len­nium, the 68-year-old ti­tan of Bol­ly­wood cinema – star of Sho­lay, Don and a myr­iad oth­ers – has never man­aged the cross­over into western movies like con­tem­po­raries Om Puri and Naseerud­din Shah.

Bachchan (aka The Big B) may well teach his co-stars a thing or two. After all, he has been mak­ing films since 1969 and, at the last count, had notched up around 180 ap­pear­ances. He was in York­shire in 1999 for Brad­ford’s Bite the Mango Film Fes­ti­val and charmed ev­ery­one he met with that trade­mark bari­tone voice and old­e­worlde su­per­star vibe. It’s typ­i­cal of Luhrmann’s left­field ap­proach that he thought of Bachchan, and what a de­li­cious piece of cast­ing it surely is.

The Great Gatsby is set for re­lease late in 2012 to cash in on the 2013 Os­cars race. Wouldn’t it be awe­some if, on the eve of his 70th birth­day, the Big B was to nab an Academy Award? Then again, he doesn’t need a pat on the back from Hol­ly­wood. They, like ev­ery­one else, al­ready know he’s a class act.

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