Filmmaker Baz Luhrmann’s lavish adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s roaring '20s novel “The Great Gatsby” is getting a lot of attention for its over-the-top 3D visuals and anachronistic hip-hop soundtrack. However, at its heart, the film is a timeless character piece about love and obsession.
The movie’s title character, enigmatic multimillionaire Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), will quite literally do anything to win back the love of his life, married socialite Daisy Buchanan. Fitzgerald’s “Great Gatsby” is a beloved classic, and Daisy is one of the most iconic love interests in modern literature. Casting the right person for Gatsby was obviously integral to the film (and it’s a role that DiCaprio inhabits fully), but almost more important to the movie was finding the right person to play the object of Jay Gatsby’s obsession.
“Every actor came in for it -- it was a bit like a ‘Gone with the Wind’ search,” Luhrmann told Yahoo! Movies Canada, referring to the infamously lengthy casting process that preceded the production of the 1939 Hollywood epic.
Luhrmann wasn’t kidding. Almost every young Hollywood actress of note was said to have tried out for the Daisy part. Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Amanda Seyfried, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Hall, Keira Knightley, Blake Lively, and Abbie Cornish were all reported to have auditioned for the role at some point, but it wasn’t until Luhrmann and DiCaprio saw Best Actress nominee Carey Mulligan (“An Education,” “Drive”) that they knew they’d found their Daisy.
“Pretty much as soon as she left the room Leonardo and I looked at each other, and Leonardo said ‘I think that’s the next phenomenon in acting,’” Luhrmann recalled, adding that it was partially DiCaprio’s insights into his own character that helped Mulligan secure the role. “[Leonardo] made a really precise observation, he said ‘you know, if in the book it says Gatsby knew women early, then he would probably have known a certain kind of woman kicking around the shores of Lake Superior. But Carey’s Daisy is like a hot house flower – he would have never met anyone vaguely like that.’”
Obviously thrilled about getting the highly coveted part, the 27-year-old British actress reportedly burst into tears on a New York City red carpet when Luhrmann phoned to tell her she’d be playing Daisy in the film – something Mulligan’s sensitive and delicate character likely would have done. The actress's take on the flapper Daisy is much more naive and innocent than past depictions of the character -- specifically Fitzgerald's novel -- but it's a minor change that helps add more emotional weight to the proceedings.
“You could imagine [Gatsby] trying to protect her to an obsessive level, so I think that’s what caught with [Carey],” said Luhrmann, “It was a child star quality or like the quality they say Lady Di had – she could make you feel like you were the only person in the room, but on the other hand could break or shatter like glass in the next breath.”
“The Great Gatsby” arrives in theatres on May 10.