After a solid opening in wide release stateside, grossing over $50 million in over 3,500 theaters, Baz Luhrmann took his "The Great Gatsby" on the road to officially open the Cannes Film Festival. It is the first film in recent memory to open what is arguably the world's most important film event after a theatrical roll out in the U.S., but judging by the rush of press for the morning screening here and the pile-up to get into the press conference afterwards, enthusiasm for the film has only grown.
Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Carey Mulligan and Isla Fisher joined Luhrmann and writer Craig Pearce in Cannes' first official press conference where the Australian filmmaker expressed some relief at last weekend's U.S. box office numbers and revealed his early wrangling with Warner Bros. brass.
"I had a rough patch with Warner Bros and a dispute with [Warner president] Jeff Robinov," said Luhrmann today in Cannes. "Warner is known for doing big action films and it's in their DNA, but I told them that it's [also] in their DNA to do films about mysterious men."
Picking up the cue from a reporter in the room who had likened the film version of F. Scott Fitzgerald's "Gatsby" to the 1942 classic "Casablanca," Luhrmann said that he reminded the studio that stories such as "Gatsby" were also part of Warner Bros.' history. He gave a shout-out to Robinov, who appeared to be sitting in the room, prompting the cast to give a spontaneous round of applause.
Though the two-hour and twenty-two minute feature has received mixed reviews in the U.S., so far audiences have voted with their wallets. Luhrmann pointed out that Fitzgerald himself received mixed reviews when the novel first appeared in 1925, and suffered a further insult from the public in the form of poor book sales. "Last week, [Fitzgerald] sold more copies of 'The Great Gatsby' than he did his entire life," said Luhrmann. "I made 'Moulin Rouge' and 'Romeo and Juliet' and I never thought ["Gatsby"] would get great scores from critics. I just care that people are going out to see it -- I really do."