Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
How Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez Made Josh Brolin's 'No Country For Old Men' Audition Tape How Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez Made Josh Brolin's 'No Country For Old Men' Audition Tape Josh Brolin Says He's Starring With Jessica Chastain In A Movie About George Jones & Tammy Wynette Josh Brolin Says He's Starring With Jessica Chastain In A Movie About George Jones & Tammy Wynette Watch: Robert Richardson Explains Why He Took His Name Off 'World War Z' And More In 58-Minute Cinematographer Talk Watch: Robert Richardson Explains Why He Took His Name Off 'World War Z' And More In 58-Minute Cinematographer Talk George Miller Says He Originally Wanted The Music In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' To Only Come From The Doof Warrior George Miller Says He Originally Wanted The Music In 'Mad Max: Fury Road' To Only Come From The Doof Warrior Stephen King Says Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining' Is "Like A Big, Beautiful Cadillac With No Engine Inside It" Stephen King Says Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining' Is "Like A Big, Beautiful Cadillac With No Engine Inside It" Review: Coen Brothers' 'Hail, Caesar!' Starring Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, And More Review: Coen Brothers' 'Hail, Caesar!' Starring Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Scarlett Johansson, Tilda Swinton, And More Naomi Watts Confirmed For David Lynch’s ‘Twin Peaks’ Revival; Tom Sizemore Joins Cast Naomi Watts Confirmed For David Lynch’s ‘Twin Peaks’ Revival; Tom Sizemore Joins Cast Watch: Quentin Tarantino Talks 5 Movies To Watch Before 'The Hateful Eight' In 7-Minute Video Watch: Quentin Tarantino Talks 5 Movies To Watch Before 'The Hateful Eight' In 7-Minute Video SAG Award Winners: ‘Spotlight’ Wins Best Ensemble, Leonardo DiCaprio, Idris Elba & Brie Larson Also Score Big SAG Award Winners: ‘Spotlight’ Wins Best Ensemble, Leonardo DiCaprio, Idris Elba & Brie Larson Also Score Big Review: ‘Jane Got A Gun’ Starring Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton & Ewan McGregor Review: ‘Jane Got A Gun’ Starring Natalie Portman, Joel Edgerton & Ewan McGregor Mel Gibson Gave Nate Parker Advice On Making 'The Birth Of A Nation' Mel Gibson Gave Nate Parker Advice On Making 'The Birth Of A Nation' The 25 Most Anticipated New TV Shows Of 2016 The 25 Most Anticipated New TV Shows Of 2016 The 20 Best Documentaries Of 2015 The 20 Best Documentaries Of 2015 The 20 Best Films Of 2015 The 20 Best Films Of 2015 The 25 Best Action Movies Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Action Movies Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Sci-Fi Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Sci-Fi Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Animated Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 50 Best Films Of The Decade So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far The 25 Best Horror Films Of The 21st Century So Far Terry Gilliam Talks The "Simplistic" Films Of Steven Spielberg, Dumbing Down Of Audiences, 'Don Quixote' Start Date & More Terry Gilliam Talks The "Simplistic" Films Of Steven Spielberg, Dumbing Down Of Audiences, 'Don Quixote' Start Date & More

5 Things Learned From Baz Luhrmann On The Road To ‘The Great Gatsby’

The Playlist By Edward Davis | The Playlist May 12, 2013 at 10:02AM

This weekend Baz Luhrmann's gold-encrusted, glitter-covered, FM radio-fueled "The Great Gatsby" hit theaters, and while critics may be split, audiences turned up in droves. But it wasn't the easiest journey to the big screen. The expensive production underwent reshoots, was pushed back from its previously planned Christmas Day release last year, and some wondered if it was a sign that the movie was troubled. But undoubtedly, it's Luhrmann's vision through and through.
5
Baz Luhrmann, The Great Gatsby

This weekend Baz Luhrmann's gold-encrusted, glitter-covered, FM radio-fueled "The Great Gatsby" hit theaters, and while critics may be split, audiences turned up in droves. But it wasn't the easiest journey to the big screen. The expensive production underwent reshoots, was pushed back from its previously planned Christmas Day release last year, and some wondered if it was a sign that the movie was troubled. But undoubtedly, it's Luhrmann's vision through and through.

So with the movie rounding up a successful opening weekend, we decided to do some digging and piece together how Luhrmann eventually got to 'Gatsby,' and what measures he took to ensure he captured the Jazz Age vibe. This includes projects that never came together, the music of Jay-Z and preparing for the knives of the critics. Read on and let us know what you thought of Gatsby below...


The Great Gatsby
1. Luhrmann became deeply depressed after his would-be adaptation of “Alexander The Great” starring Leonardo DiCaprio fell apart.
Hollywood loves a project arms race and you may or may not remember that circa 2003, Luhrmann and Oliver Stone were in a competition to make an Alexander The Great movie. Stone beat him to it with 2004’s deeply reviled “Alexander” and it killed Luhrmann’s project two-fold: 1) because it got to screens first and 2) it did so poorly and lost so much money, Hollywood was essentially convinced there was no appetite for this subject even if the movie was fantastic. Because of this, Luhrmann fell into a great funk. And it’s part of the reason that during the aughts, he only made two films: “Moulin Rouge!” (2001) and “Australia” (2008). From THR:

This is the man who admits to self-doubt, speaks of bitter disappointments and sporadic depressions; who says he was devastated when his Alexander the Great biopic crumbled after years of work and describes instances of a black despair that left him feeling almost suicidal -- "very rarely, but when I do, it's totally real. It's been a half-dozen times, and it's deep."

2. Did Luhrmann know he was going to get critically pummelled by the press?
Was it the stylistically bold and anachronistic approach to the material or is the material just too much of a sacred cow? Luhrmann suggests the latter may have made him a target, in an interview with the LA Times.

Luhrmann said criticism is inevitable whenever you touch a hallowed text, be it by Shakespeare or Fitzgerald. "If you go near anything, you are going to be tarred and feathered," he said.

The Great Gatsby
3. Luhrmann was offered the first “Harry Potter” movie to direct.
“I certainly have been offered a lot of very well known movies where we would have made ourselves very rich very quickly,” he told Coming Soon. “We consider that we're wealthy in life experience, so I don't know that all my choices have been the smartest commercial ideas, but they've all been about what I do feel compelled and what I love to do, creatively. That's always been where it's coming from, you know? We definitely could be cash richer than we are because of the things that have come our way, and every now and then I say, 'Oh, maybe I should just say yes next time someone says 'Harry Potter' again."

Was he being cheeky? Nope. “I was actually offered the first one,” he clarified.

4. Luhrmann cranked Jay-Z on set to get the mood started in a party scene.
There’s a party scene in the film with Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan, Isla Fisher, Joel Edgerton and a few other friends all gathered at Gatsby's. Luhrmann said the party had to accelerate to the point that it got crazy and abstract, so to push the mood, he cranked up wild jazz and then Jay-Z on set. Luhrmann said there was only 20 minutes in the day left and he yelled to the cast and crew, “let’s turn all the cameras on and lets go for it.”

“So we started with jazz, there was a bit of pillow fighting and some photographs being taken, and it went fine,” he said during the ‘Gatsby’ press conference, but he wanted more. “So right in the middle of it I very loudly turned up a Jay-Z track called 'N. I. P.' ['Niggas In Paris'] which was mixed with jazz, and things took off.”

The cameras rolled for 20 minutes, [very expensive] lamps crashed and the scene almost got out of hand. “My first assistant says ‘Baz we got to shut it down,’ because by then it was crazy mayhem of levels you can’t imagine,” he recalled laughing. “There were clothes coming off and feather fights and flowers being thrown and I remember I grabbed everyone and said, ‘Get in the bedroom!’ and I pushed this Steadicam operator into the bedroom and they kept rolling.”

The Great Gatsby, Carey Mulligan,
5. Perhaps ironically, Luhrmann didn’t read “The Great Gatsby” -- he listened to an audio book of it.
That’s splitting hairs to an extent, but Luhrmann suggests listening to it, rather than reading it, opened up his mind to its visual possibilities. Also, part of it was practical. He’s a slow reader. “Reading is such an intense experience,” he told Florence Welch in an Interview magazine interview.” My wife can read three novels in a night; she's a speed reader. But I read a page or two of, say, Aldous Huxley's 'The Devils of Loudun'—which took me almost six months to read, by the way—it overpowers me. I can hardly get through it.”

Luhrmann listened to "The Great Gatsby" on a Trans-Siberian Railway trip after “Moulin Rouge!” to clear his head.

“It’s like listening to music. It's like the movie is in my mind,” he said.”I think they should sell going on the Trans-Siberian Railway as an out-of-body experience—locking yourself in a tin box, having bottles of really great Australian red wine, and having great books read to you as the birch trees of Siberia flick by the window and the sun sets. That's got to be one of the greatest experiences of my life. It was so beautiful. And guess who inspired me to do it? When I was a kid, I remember reading that David Bowie had gone on the Trans-Siberian, and I knew I was going to do that one day.”

“The Great Gatsby” is now in theaters. It has its international premiere at the Cannes Film Festival later this week.

This article is related to: The Great Gatsby, Baz Luhrmann, Features


The Playlist

The obsessives' guide to contemporary cinema via film discussion, news, reviews, features, nostalgia, movie music, soundtracks, DVDs and more.


E-Mail Updates