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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

October 20, 2010 at 11:06 AM

Baz Luhrmann and “The Great Gatsby”

Some books, it seems to me, have the kind of jewel-like perfection that can’t be translated into another medium — trying to make a movie from such a masterwork is like trying to put magic in a bottle. (I think this even though I’m often wrong — “Mrs. Dalloway,” “The Hours,” and “Atonement” were just three of the books that I just knew couldn’t possibly survive a translation to the screen — and yet were adapted into exquisite movies that beautifully captured the books’ spell.) But one of those books is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby,” which I re-read every few years and am always newly struck by its timelessness, its brevity, its almost carelessly artful sentences in which you find beauty on every page, right up to its gorgeous final line: “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” A few filmmakers have taken a crack at “The Great Gatsby” over the years — most recently a 2000 TV version starring Paul Rudd, Toby Stephens and Mira Sorvino — with the best-known attempt being the 1974 version with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. I haven’t seen any of them; due to mild stubbornness (how can they possibly live up to the book!) and reports that none have been stellar.
But if Baz Luhrmann goes through with his plans to make a new film version of “The Great Gatsby,” I might just have to watch. (Who am I kidding; I’d definitely watch that, whether it works or not.) It’s been known for a while that Luhrmann’s had this project up his sleeve, and this week it was reported that he took a big step forward: a workshop reading of the screenplay (which Luhrmann wrote, with Craig Pearce), with Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, Tobey Maguire as Nick Carroway, and Rebecca Hall as Daisy Buchanan, whose fabled voice “was full of money.” Deadline, which reported on the workshop, cautions that these actors are not necessarily contracted or even intending to be in the film (for which the names of Amanda Seyfried and Natalie Portman have been mentioned as Daisy); nor is it clear whether this will be Luhrmann’s next project. But it’s intriguing, particularly DiCaprio as Gatsby. Now I want to go read the book again.
Anyone seen any of the other “Gatsby” versions? What did you think? Would you watch this one?

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