If you live in Sydney (as I do), you would be forgiven for thinking that “The Great Gatsby” is an Australian film. It was shot here in Sydney – at the Fox Studios not far from downtown, as well as a number of other nearby locations. (It opens in Australia on Thursday 30 May.) Gatsby is directed by an Australian (Baz Luhrmann), working with a mostly Australian crew – including his talented partner, production designer and costumer, Catherine Martin. A number of Australian actors appear, some in reasonably significant roles (Joel Edgerton, Jason Clarke, Isla Fisher), although not, I hasten to say, as Australians. They play Americans, because – in case you missed it – “The Great Gatsby” is a classic American story, originally a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald first published in 1925. And this is the fifth time that the novel has been filmed. The screen version most people current remember was the 1974 movie that starred Robert Redford as Jay Gatsby, a mis-fire of a film (ponderous, slow and surprisingly un-memorable).
As the extremely large sign (see photo below, taken today – Monday 20 May 2013) on the wall of 150 William Street, Darlinghurst (East Sydney) shows, even Screen Australia is claiming the film. The sign prompted me to ask if Screen Australia – Australia’s national government film production and culture funder – has invested in the film (why else promote it in this way?), but alas it does not appear that it did. This is a Hollywood studio film, William Street notwithstanding (funding from and major distribution by Warner Brothers).
Don’t get me wrong. I am looking forward to watching “The Great Gatsby”. A great deal. But remember, I read F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel as a teenager and loved it then. I remember a long argument at age 20 where I defended Fitzgerald as a much better writer than William Faulkner (you don’t notice Luhrmann doing a film adaptation of “As I Lay Dying”, do you?), was disappointed in the Redford version and like Luhrmann’s work (click here for my post about his film “Australia”). I just don’t think the film’s very Australian.
And who will be watching this film? A short article by Garry Maddox in The Sydney Morning Herald on 16 May 2013 (“Women Take Lead Role in Gatsby’s Great Success”, p. 36; online headline reading “Baz woos the women”) reports that the “The Great Gatsby” is about to overtake “Moulin Rouge” as Luhrmann’s most successful film in the USA (easily outstripping “Australia”). This is substantially due to “an audience otherwise ignored by Hollywood blockbusters lately – women”. Audiences have been mostly female (59 percent) and older (69 percent). There’s only one downside of what is assuredly going to be a hit in North America – people don’t want to see the 3-D version, with Box Office Mojo reporting that “a third of the opening weekend sales came from <that> format – ‘ an incredibly low figure for a live-action movie’”.
Does this surprise you? Not me. How many men do you know proclaim they loved “Moulin Rouge!”? Not many, but sure enough the women did. And despite his “tough guy” roles (“J. Edgar”, “Gangs of New York”, “Django Unchained”), Leonardo DiCaprio still appears to be a pretty boy, more appealing to women than to men (“Titanic” anyone?). And seriously, are the >25 women so keen on 3-D? No. DiCaprio looks just fine in normal 2-D resolution.
Here’s a safe prediction: Gatsby will be a great success in Australia, reaching many of the same audience as it has in North America – that “over 25 female” quadrant. Yes, and some others. Me, for one.
Interested in watching the red carpet opening here in Sydney at Fox Studios this Wednesday (22 May)? I reproduce below part of the media alert from the distributors, Roadshow. That’s a hefty (and all-star) list of celebrity guests, yes?
SYDNEY TO SPARKLE AS STARS FASHION THEIR WAY TO THE RED CARPET AUSTRALIAN PREMIERE OF THE GREAT GATSBY
Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 at Hoyts, The Entertainment Quarter
WHAT: Red carpet arrivals at the Australian premiere of THE GREAT GATSBY
WHO: Filmmakers Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin, together with cast members Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Elizabeth Debicki, Steve Bisley, Vince Colosimo, Ralph Cotterill, Max Cullen, Arthur Dignam, Brendan MacLean, Kate Mulvany, Hamish Michael, Heather Mitchell, Barry Otto, Jack Thompson, Matthew Whittet, Felix Williamson, co-writer Craig Pearce and choreographer John ‘Cha Cha’ O’Connell.
Other celebrity and VIP guests include Premier of NSW, The Hon Barry O’Farrell; Simon Crean MP, George Souris MP, Andrew Stoner MP, Gillian Armstrong, David Berry, Emma Birdsall, Rafael Bonacela, Alice Burdeu, Simon Burke, Ita Buttrose, David Campbell, Sarah Jane Clarke, Collette Dinnigan, Laura Dundovic and James Kerley, Marta Dusseldorp and Ben Winspear, Kym Ellery, Larry Emdur, Dan and Marni Ewing, Manu Fieldel, Emma Freedman, Rebecca Gibney, Kylie Gillies, Delta Goodrem, Josh Goot, Peter Helliar, Deborah Hutton, Akira Isogawa, Kerri-Anne Kennerley, Damien Leith, Emma Lung, Joel Madden and Nicole Richie, Ricky Martin, Reece Mastin and Rhiannon Fish, Darren McMullen, Heidi Middleton, George Miller, Peter Morrisey, Lachlan and Sarah Murdoch, Sally Obermeder, Gracie Otto, Neil Perry, Kate Ritchie, Benedict Samuel, Seal, Ryan Stokes, Maurice Terzini, Brian Walsh, Callan Ward, Kate Waterhouse and Luke Ricketson, Fleur Wood, Richard Wilkins, Dan Wyllie, Lincoln Younes and Carla Zampatti.
WHEN: Wednesday, May 22nd
Check-in 4pm Arrivals begin 5.45pm
Screening begins 6.45pm
WHERE: Hoyts, The Entertainment Quarter, Bent Street, Moore Park
From the uniquely imaginative mind of writer/producer/director Baz Luhrmann comes the new big screen adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby”. The filmmaker created his own distinctive visual interpretation of the classic story, bringing the period to life in a way that has never been seen before, in a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio in the title role.
“The Great Gatsby” follows would-be writer Nick Carraway as he leaves the Midwest and comes to New York City in the spring of 1922, an era of loosening morals, glittering jazz, bootleg kings, and sky-rocketing stocks. Chasing his own American Dream, Nick lands next door to a mysterious, party-giving millionaire, Jay Gatsby, and across the bay from his cousin, Daisy, and her philandering, blue-blooded husband, Tom Buchanan. It is thus that Nick is drawn into the captivating world of the super rich, their illusions, loves and deceits. As Nick bears witness, within and without of the world he inhabits, he pens a tale of impossible love, incorruptible dreams and high-octane tragedy, and holds a mirror to our own modern times and struggles.
Warner Bros. Pictures presents, in association with Village Roadshow Pictures, in association with A&E Television, a Bazmark/Red Wagon Entertainment Production, a Film by Baz Luhrmann, “The Great Gatsby.”
Opening in Australian cinemas on May 30, 2013, the film will be distributed in 3D and 2D by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company, and in select territories by Village Roadshow Pictures.
Trailer can be viewed on Roadshow Films youtube channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/RoadshowFilms