Inspired casting could bring Hollywood acclaim for a Bollywood titan
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.