Baz Luhrmann takes on challenging classic with 'The Great Gatsby'

Mon May 6, 2013 4:22pm EDT
 
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By Chris Michaud

NEW YORK (Reuters) - It is hailed as "the great American novel," but so far "The Great Gatsby" has defied attempts by some of Hollywood's top filmmakers to bring its lyrically romantic story and tragic characters to cinematic life.

But that didn't faze director Baz Luhrmann.

Luhrmann, known for his lavish productions, assembled a roster of stars led by Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire in the latest incarnation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's mournful ode to the carefree, hedonistic 1920s and its youthful, wealthy and self-absorbed denizens.

One of the year's most anticipated films, "The Great Gatsby" opens in U.S. theaters on Friday and has been accorded the prestigious opening-night slot at the Cannes Film Festival on May 15.

As far back as 1926, just a year after the book was published, Hollywood has tried to capture and project Fitzgerald's artful prose onto the silver screen. A 1949 version starring Alan Ladd focused on Gatsby's criminal connections and even took significant liberties with the ending.

The last effort, apart from a TV film, in 1974 featured Robert Redford and Mia Farrow atop the marquee. Critics slammed it as lifeless and lugubrious, and the box office was a dismal $20.6 million.

Luhrmann aims to change its checkered history with a lush 3-D production rendered in his trademark eye-popping visual style that first dazzled fans in the surprise 2001 hit "Moulin Rouge," which went on to win several Oscars.

But the challenges of adapting "The Great Gatsby" were mired in both its period source material and its cinematic failures.   Continued...

 
Director Baz Luhrmann attends the 'The Great Gatsby' world premiere at Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York May 1, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly