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Cannes Picks Luhrmann's 'Great Gatsby' to Open Fest May 15, After its Stateside Release UPDATED

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood March 12, 2013 at 1:53AM

Cannes opening night is always Fest Delegate General Thierry Frémaux's biggest headache. How to find the right combination of "big" movie with artistic pretensions directed by a proven auteur delivering some glamorous stars for the red carpet? All too often, the actual quality of the film is irrelevant. Thus the opening night of the 66th Festival du Cannes is "The Great Gatsby," Warner Bros.' 3-D spectacular from Baz Luhrmann. The Australian filmmaker memorably opened the fest with Fox's "Moulin Rouge" in 2001, with one of the best parties I have ever been to in my life. I remember Rupert Murdoch dancing with Nicole Kidman, among other things.
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DiCaprio and Luhrmann on the set of "The Great Gatsby'
DiCaprio and Luhrmann on the set of "The Great Gatsby'

Cannes opening night is always Fest Delegate General Thierry Frémaux's biggest headache. How to find the right combination of "big" movie with artistic pretensions directed by a proven auteur delivering some glamorous stars for the red carpet? All too often, the actual quality of the film is irrelevant. Thus the opening night of the 66th Festival du Cannes is "The Great Gatsby," Warner Bros.' 3-D spectacular from Baz Luhrmann. The Australian filmmaker memorably opened the fest with Fox's "Moulin Rouge" in 2001, with one of the best parties I have ever been to in my life. I remember Rupert Murdoch dancing with Nicole Kidman, among other things. 

"It is a great honor for all those who have worked on The Great Gatsby to open the Cannes Film Festival," said Luhrmann. "We are thrilled to return to a country, place and festival that has always been so close to our hearts, not only because my first film Strictly Ballroom was screened there 21 years ago, but also because F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote some of the most poignant and beautiful passages of his extraordinary novel just a short distance away at a villa outside St. Raphael."

'The Great Gatsby'
'The Great Gatsby'

UPDATED While Warners is using the fest to launch the movie in France the same day, followed by many cities around the world, they're sticking to their original plan of a May 1 world premiere in New York, followed by a May 10 opening.

The studio may be hoping the Fest will add some cred to the film, which is tainted from having been moved back from an awards-qualifying 2012 berth to a more forgiving popcorn audience summer date, presumably because the movie wasn't going to play for critics. But the studio and Luhrmann are taking a real chance here. This is unusual--Cannes usually insists on world premieres--and risky.

Even if the F. Scott Fitzgerald adaptation opens well stateside and is out of competition, it still must face the world's least forgiving press corps on the morning before the opening night red carpet gala. If the movie is opening around the world right away, a bad reaction won't have much impact, right? But Brian Grazer and Ron Howard weren't too thrilled with the jeers that met "The Da Vinci Code" when they opened Cannes, even if they were laughing all the way to the bank. 

But the fest is thrilled to have Leonardo DiCaprio back, who hasn't officially been on the Croisette since his 2007 documentary "The 11th Hour." He plays Jay Gatsby, while Nick Carraway is played by Tobey Maguire, and Carey Mulligan is Daisy Buchanan, whose husband is Joel Edgerton. Also on hand for the gala will be Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan and rapper Jay-Z. So Cannes will have their swinging gala, along with their second 3-D opening nighter (the first was Pete Docter's "Up" in 2009).

Produced by Warner Bros. Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures, the film was adapted by Luhrmann and his co-screenwriter Graig Pearce from Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel.

This article is related to: Cannes Film Festival, Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Tobey Maguire


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.