GQ Australia - June/July 2013
Having ditched his teen heart-throb status and established himself as one of the world’s leading character actors, Leonardo
Dicaprio’s starring role in The Great Gatsby is the cinematic event of the year. He talks GQ Australia through his inspirations,
aspirations and the immersive power of filming in 3D.
Talk about a wild ride. Baz Luhrmann, Australia’s larger-than-life director, was first linked to The Great Gatsby as far back as
2008. It was a risky idea – giving the keys to the Great American Novel to the man who made Ewan McGregor sing Elton John and put a
plus sign between Romeo and Juliet. But the conceit was too wild to ignore and the project became a serious talent magnet. Amanda
Seyfried, Scarlett Johansson and Natalie Portman were all talked about for the role of Daisy Buchanan, a sometimes-cynical socialite
and the object of Jay Gatsby’s affections (Carey Mulligan eventually won the derby). Intending to shoot in New York, Luhrmann even
re-located his family to the States in 2010.
But nothing is ever as it seems in the land of Baz, and as the production was inching towards the start line, The Great Gatsby
shifted back to Sydney. The new schedule forced Ben Affleck to relinquish a pivotal role. Then came reports that Luhrmann was
considering shooting in (wait for it) 3D. The Great Gatsby was budgeted at US$125m, with filming to begin in September 2011. A
December 2012 release date came and went, and reports surfaced that Luhrmann was personally trying to raise cash to finance re-shoots.
When pressed to explain the delay last year, Luhrmann told New York magazine, cryptically: “I’m just very nourished by just working
on it. I’m just thrilled.” The man just protest too much? When the magazine pressed him further on the delay, he said, “Right now
I’m working on music. You can imagine how involved I am in the music alone.” Which brings us to the most unlikely element of his
take on The Great Gatsby: a score by Jay-Z, with contributions by Kanye West, Jack White and even a Beyoncé cover of Amy Winehouse’s
“Back to Black.”
Throughout this circus, the one thing that seemed to make sense about Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby was the casting of Leonardo DiCaprio
in the title role, a mysterious bachelor who lives in a mansion on Long Island and famous for the revelry that surrounds him. And
yet, this is exactly the kind of role 38-year-old DiCaprio has been running from in recent years. Blond and absurdly handsome, he’s
intent on reminding viewers that he’s a character actor trapped in the chassis of a leading man. He once called Taxi Driver’s Travis
Bickle his professional “wet dream”, and it wasn’t idle chit-chat – just look at his CV. Last year, DiCaprio played the villainous
Calvin Candie in Django Unchained, with rotten teeth and loose morals – looking like he was having the time of his life. He played
J Edgar Hoover (the most feared man of his time) for Clint Eastwood. Even in Revolutionary Road, DiCaprio
subverted his image, playing a Norman Rockwell-era suburban hero trapped in a waking nightmare, as the promise of his birth proved
to be one big disappointment.
But you can only run from fate for so long. DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby? It’s like two icons from across time shaking hands. Talking to
DiCaprio today, with the film finally about to open in cinemas, it’s clear he found it a daunting prospect. “To take on this iconic
character is not an easy thing to wrap your head around,” he says, slowly and deliberately. “The Great Gatsby is sewn into the fabric
of the American Dream. To fall flat on your face trying to interpret this novel in the right way is scary.” He knows, after all, that
casting is only half the battle; even a 1974 version featuring Robert Redford couldn’t get it right. “I remember watching that movie
in high school. I loved Redford’s performance but I don’t know how
I felt about the film. There have been five interpretations
of Gatsby through the years, going all the way back to the ’30s.” He pauses, formulating a diplomatic way to point out that none of
them quite nailed it. “I thought there was a way to take it on again.” There is. But with 3D glasses?
For DiCaprio, the road to Gatsby started 20 years ago. As a fresh-faced child actor, he flew to Australia to test for the lead in
Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, which re-imagined Shakespeare’s tragedy as a Venice Beach fever dream. “Oh boy,” he says of that first
trip. “I remember being there for about a week and I had my first scuba-diving experience on the Great Barrier Reef. I remember
entering an entire Dr Seuss world. I hadn’t seen anything like that and it’s burned into my imagination forever.”
Read the full article in the print edition June/July 2013.
Here is more what the 38-year-old actor had to share with the mag:
On being in Australia: “I remember being there for about a week (when he flew in to test for the lead in Romeo and Juliet) and I
had my first scuba-diving experience on the Great Barrier Reef. I remember entering an entire Dr Seuss world. I hadn’t seen anything
like that and it’s burned into my imagination forever… As for Australian women, what can I say? All Australians are awesome in my
On playing Gatsby: “I think anyone and everyone worldwide, when they read The Great Gatsby, identify with the dreamer in him. We all
have these images of who we could be, or dreams of what we can become. And I can relate that to being an actor, and wanting to be an
actor, and never knowing whether you can achieve those dreams.”
On future plans: “I’ve been talking about it (directing) a lot. But I’m still not sure I’m going to do it. When you’re a director
you have so many different elements you need to be in control of. I get very obsessive when I do movies and it encompasses my life.
And I don’t know how I’d react to 200 different people asking me questions. I might spiral off into some other dimension of
obsessiveness. For now, playing the character and being responsible for myself is what I’m doing. But you never know. I might give it
a try. Because it does seem fun.”
INTERVIEWS & ARTICLES