If Jay Gatsby was a real person and alive today, then he would be in every tabloid, photographed with supermodels. And who better to play this role than 38-year-old Leonardo DiCaprio who made a stellar presence in everything from Titanic (1997) to Inception (2010), and is just as well known in the party circuit. Now the actor will be seen in the 3D romantic drama film, an adaptation of F Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel, The Great Gatsby. More from DiCaprio:
Did you identify with Jay Gatsby who wasn’t born wealthy?
Sure. I think everyone has some sort of connection to Gatsby as a character. He’s a character that has created himself according to his own imagination and dreams and lifted himself from his own boot straps as a poor youth in the Midwest. It’s a truly American story in that regard.
What was your first impression of Gatsby?
The Gatsby that I remember reading when I was 15 years old, in junior high school, was far different than the Gatsby that I read as an adult. And what I remember from my years in junior high was a hopeless romantic who was solely in love with this one woman and created a great amount of wealth to respectably be able to hold her hand. Then, to reread it as an adult was incredibly fascinating. It is one of those novels that is talked about nearly a 100 years later for a reason. And here, at the center of this movie, is this man who is incredibly hollow. He’s searching for some sort of meaning in his life, and has attached himself to this relic known as Daisy. She’s a mirage. I was struck by the sadness in him for the first time, and I looked at him completely differently.
Which is your most memorable scene in the book?
One very telling sequence, which was a very important one in the book, was after this great care he’s taken creating Gatsby’s castle in order to lure Daisy in, Nick notices that he’s holding her, yet he’s still staring out at the green light. And that was the Gatsby that I was incredibly excited about playing as an actor.
Did your friendship with Tobey translate into the characters and the roles?
For me, this is like American Shakespeare. This is one of the most celebrated novels of all time. So, to venture into a project of this magnitude, it really took a sort of core unit of trust for me to feel comfortable and to know that somebody that I’ve known for 20 years and Baz Luhrmann were involved.
To me, I don’t know if this project would have happened unless we had that relationship, because we needed those checks and balances.
Was the Gatsby castle real? And did you want to live there while making the movie?
I did the whole time. [Laughs]. Baz’s original intent was to shoot in New York and for budgetary reasons we shipped the whole production to Australia. And I think what was amazing about shooting in Australia and recreating all these sets and this entire world was the incredible enthusiasm and work ethic of all the people there. I think it infused us with this great energy. I mean, every actor besides three or four were Australian actors and the entire crew was Australian. I don’t think it would have been enthused with the same energy and passion had we not shot there, truly. Seemingly, the more things change, the more they remain the same.
Why do you think history keeps repeating itself?
Well, Baz talks about it a lot, but in a lot of ways this book predicted the great crash in the early 1930s in America. It’s a book that talks about the great opulence and wealth in America during that time period, and the idea that the future is endless and we can keep consuming and living the way we do without any consequences. It is timeless in the sense that that is an 80-year cycle. We’ve encountered it again in our modern era. And it’s something that we keep doing. It isn’t just an American novel in that regard. It’s something that’s happening worldwide. Fitzgerald was very much commenting on society and human nature and the great pursuit of wealth.