SYDNEY (Reuters) - Director Baz Luhrmann brought “The Great Gatsby” home on Wednesday for its Australian premiere, with box-office success for the Sydney-produced film bolstering hopes for the resurgence of the local film industry.
The film, set in 1920s New York and starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, is one of several international productions recently lured to Australia by federal government tax breaks and grants.
The ambitious third adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “great American novel” debuted at the Cannes Film Festival last week and has so far raked in $23.4 million, putting it in third place at the U.S. weekend box office behind “Star Trek into Darkness” and “Iron Man 3.
“We can take America’s finest book and make a movie here in Australia,” Luhrmann told reporters on the red carpet at the premiere. “I think this is our home. The crew, the actors, the state the government, everyone stood behind it.”
A strong Aussie dollar made Australia an unpopular location for international film makers in recent years, but the government subsidies are burnishing its appeal.
“The Wolverine”, starring Australian actor Hugh Jackman, recently completed filming in Sydney, while cameras are due to start rolling next on the Walt Disney Studios production of “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea”.
The last big productions filmed in Australia before that were the Matrix Trilogy and “Mission: Impossible II” in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Luhrmann’s wife Catherine Martin created from scratch the sets that evoke 1920s New York in Sydney’s Fox Studios.
Locations around New South Wales serve as backdrops, while the picturesque town of Mount Wilson in the Blue Mountains, 100 km (60 miles) west of Sydney, stood in for Long Island.
“The Great Gatsby”, which also stars Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire, has polarized critics but Luhrmann shrugged off the negative reviews.
“Fitzgerald was heavily criticized when he wrote the book. He was buying copies before he died just to make up his sales,” Luhrmann said.
“Last week he sold more books than he ever did in his life and if that’s because of the film then I’m all right with that.”
Writing by Elaine Lies and Jane Wardell; Editing by Miral Fahmy