Gatsby goes to Hollywood. Again.

This week it was revealed that English actress Carey Mulligan is to play the coveted role of Daisy Buchanan, in Baz Luhrman’s forthcoming adaptation of The Great Gatsby. But is this a movie that we even want to see (again!)?

I treasure this book, but Baz Luhrman’s adaptation is doomed to be more miss than hit: movies rarely ever capture the essence of the original book.

And it wouldn’t be the first time: the Great Gatsby has never been successfully adapted for the big screen. The first visual adaptation of the book was a silent movie in 1926; in 1949 it was adapted with sound; and in 1974 the most popular version to date was released, starring Robert Redford as Jay, and Mia Farrow as Daisy. But the movie never really reached the dizzying heights that it should have. Fitzgerald ought to be chuffed: 85 years later and Hollywood is still trying to bottle the Gatsby magic! But why should Luhrman’s adaptation be any different?

For this adaptation to work, the narrative must not be thinned down; Fitzgerald’s beautiful language and imagery must seep elegantly out of the screen, a difficult task; it must also be visually stunning, but not arty-farty; and no theme should be ignored. The Great Gatsby is much, much more than just a love story. It’s about class, it’s about the American Dream, and its about the “green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us”. To reduce it to nothing but a soppy, sloppy kiss would be a tragedy in itself.

But perhaps most importantly, the characters must be “possessed with intense life”. Arguably, Daisy’s shoes are tough to fill but BAFTA-nominated Carey Mulligan sounds promising and she certainly looks the part. It is claimed that Tobey Maguire will play the role of Nick Carraway, and although I’m not a fan of spidey, I can see how this could work. Finally, Jay is to be played by Leonardo DiCaprio, which in my opinion is the best news so far! There is much hype surrounding the cast of this movie, and rightly so, this trio alone could turn Gatsby’s fortune round.

As fans tentatively await the cinema release of another great American classic, Kerouac’s On The Road, I wonder if film writers are simply running out of new material, and that The Great Gatsby will be one in a long line of great American novels to be gobbled up by Hollywood. Let’s pray that Hollywood doesn’t spit this one right back out…


92 thoughts on “Gatsby goes to Hollywood. Again.

  1. imagine my surprise when i saw your blog on the main page of wordpress…major congrats!

    since hollywood isn’t just making films of classic books (well, and non-classics too – twilight?) but REMAKING the movies they’ve done before, i think you’re on to something with that bit about gatsby being just one in a line of great novels to be gobbled up by hollywood. i can’t get excited for these movies anymore; i’ll probably end up seeing gatsby, but i’m at the point where i want my movies to be movies and my books to be books.

  2. It’s funny- the book that is the epitome of the jazz era completely leaves out blacks and their influence in this era. Where is harlem jazz?

    good post and I agree- books are almost always better.

    • You know, that is weird. I’ve never really looked at how race is treated in the book, but there’s this quote from chapter one which is pretty interesting:

      Civilization’s going to pieces… if we don’t look out the white race will be – will be utterly submerged… It’s up to us, who are the dominant race, to watch out or these other races will have control of things.”


  3. I have never read this book…I am going to the library to pick it up today!! Definitely must read it before the movie comes out, because i know it will be much better. I am interested what he will do with the movie…I hope it’s not like Romeo & Juliet was…I liked it when I was younger, but now I can’t stand it.

  4. I too love Gatsby, it’s such a amazing book, so I’m very excited to hear this news, you’re right it sounds like a great cast. Past adaptations haven’t been successful, and this one may not be either, but I can always wash that, potentially, unpleasant taste out of my mouth by revisiting the book.

  5. Baz has an amazing vision when it comes to film, he is quite imaginative, but it kind of scares me that he is making this film. I fear it will be not what I am hoping. Although, I am so excited that Carey Mulligan was cast as Daisy. This gives me great joy! And Leo is a fantastic actor, so you cannot go wrong there, but Toby…he could just retire as an actor and no one would miss him. All in all, I have to say I am very excited to see this film.

  6. For anyone who’s read the book (90% of those who attended high school) and thoroughly enjoyed it (90% of those who read it), this is bound to be quite the beautiful disappointment, and not surprisingly so.

    If old Bazzy Bear knows what’s good for him, he’ll go the way of Elevator Repair Service at the Public Theater and simply have an actor read from the book verbatim for a solid eight hours with minimal accompaniment by a small group of actors. Anyone lucky enough to have seen it knows it’s by and far the only way to go.

    Not marketable, you say? Throw in some 3-D for the kids and you’ve got a deal. You’re welcome, Baz.

  7. I’ve developed more and more respect for Leo after all the Titanic hype died down. He’s really turned into a respectable actor, and it’s refreshing to see someone taking his work so seriously (or, so I would think…I don’t know the guy!) LOVED Inception. Can’t wait to buy in on DVD.

  8. Luhrman, in my opinion, is a great visual film-maker and I am lookign forward to his vision of the book. Leo and Carey are both very charismatic actors, I cannot wait to see how this turns out- sounds all very promising to me!

  9. Having lived in Hollywood for some years, and witnessing the screenplay hustle first-hand, it’s no surprise that the studios can’t and won’t find original stories, and therefore have to rely on established books.

    • Wow, that’s really insightful. I definitely think there’s something going on. For a start, look at the number of comic book series that have been made into blockbusters in the past few years, not to mention Harry Potter, Twihlight, Fantastic Mr Fox,The Lovely Bones… the ist would go on and on….

  10. I like Carey Mulligan but I wonder if she might be too young in the role and can she do the bored and jaded heiress. I have seen her doing injuene and not sure she is able to do the next step up at this time. Congrats on being freshly pressed.

  11. On the Road is doomed. Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart? Casting will not save this one, sadly.

    I do think, however, that it might work out well here. While I too treasure the book, I think the casting and Baz Luhrmann’s vision might be the perfect combination to execute it. It seems like just his kind of material. I do hope he’s improved since the dreadful Australia, but his other films blend style and story beautifully, and I have my fingers crossed that this interpretation won’t end up out of control. I have high hopes!

    • Haha, I’m inclined to agree with you as far as On The Road is concerned. Aside from the lacklustre cast, I can’t quite figure how thay can possible recreate this story AND do judgement to Kerouac’s style…

      I had no idea Luhrman was behind Australia, hmmm.

  12. Haven’t read “The Great Gatsby” yet but you make me want to! However, I totally understand how nail-bitting it can be to watch Hollywood screw over your favorite books. I’m a huge Narnia fan and I despised “Prince Caspian.” I felt like they showed very little respect for the source material which is so rich and beautiful. Gah!

    Well, hopefully, “Gatsby” gets better treatment. :) Great post!

  13. they will find a way to make it crappy, like making the girl a single mom and pretending this guy accepts her and the kid and they go into happy end. (WHICH IS TOTAL BS)

    at best he would beng her and wave goodbye as a twenty yr old blew him as he rode out of town.

  14. I fail to understand why Hollywood needs to keep remaking or adapting things that have already been adapted before. Why is there such a limit of originality?

    If Hollywood can’t come up with their own ideas, they can at least try adapting literature that hasn’t been used before. There is a lot of great stuff out there.

    • I completely agree! I said somewhere before, the amount of books, comics and re-done movies that have been released in the past few years is pretty damning.

      Yeh, I’d say to Hollywood, don’t touch the classics, the reason some books are ‘classics’ is because they WORK as books! You’re right, might be interestingto see some lesser known books on our screens…

  15. This is the first I’ve heard of a new film dedicated to ‘Great Gatsby’ but I do hope they don’t completely ruin it by covering it in Hollywood glamour! It was such a good book and nothing can quite capture what the words say but to see this done well for once would by great. Thanks for the heads up!

  16. Agree with everything except the enthusiasm regarding Leonardo DiCaprio. I find his acting to be very droll, although he has impressed me in his more recent work. Perhaps he is improving with age.

  17. Baz Luhrmann has a reverse Midas touch.
    Anything with depth and meaning that falls into his grasp becomes shallow and showy.
    Fans of the book (like myself) should steer well clear of the movie!

  18. Ah…Fitzgerald. How can anyone put those words on the screen?
    The one and only book that even came close to being good on the screen was Benchley’s “Jaws”…and they didn’t really follow the book entirely…
    Very nice blog! Thanks for the post!

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  20. I’ve only just recently read The Great Gatsby. A truly interesting and exciting piece. I would honestly rahter it not be brought to life(for the third time) by anyone. That is not to say there isn’t anyone out there who could succeed in doing so ,no. But i’d just rather the mysteriousness of the book be kept that way..

  21. I absolutely love The Great Gatsby! I was blown away by Fitzgerald’s precocious writing talent. I had no idea yet another movie remake was in the works. I’m actually looking forward to seeing Luhrman put his idiosyncratic stamp on this version. I think with Mulligan and Di Caprio involved with the project, it has great potential for becoming the best adaptation thus far.

  22. If anyone has a good shot at getting Gatsby right, it’s Luhrman. And Leo as Jay? I cannot think of anyone more perfect, more glamorous in Hollywood. I also love Mulligan as Daisy. I must say, I am excited to see this, and also for the hype it will (hopefully) create around the story for the sake of my less-than-eager high school students.

    • The story could definitely have fallen into worst hands that’s for sure! I hope that it creates a buzz for your students, and for the sake of all kids reading it at school these days too! I remember reading it at school and everyone hating it, I enjoyed it, but when I read it again at uni, it blew me away.

  23. I am not so sure about the idea of Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire. To me, Daisy was always out of reach, someone like Gwyneth Paltrow could show the cool arrogance…also, I also visualized Daisy as being older than Mulligan.

    Leo di Caprio is genius casting though. Can’t wait to see how the movie turns out.

    • A few people have expressed a concern about Daisy and Mulligan’s age and ability to play the role, which is a pretty good point. I don’t think there has ever been a successful Daisy! Should be interested, holding my breath just incase, but hope I’m proved wrong!

  24. I agree with you, the casting seems hopeful but Gatsby the book is a real gem, hard to replicate on screen if not impossible. I think that with the roles Leonardo DiCaprio has been taking lately (Shutter Island, Inception) he has already proven he can do the wounded, introverted man wonderfully and he SO looks like Jay. But I’m more worried about the overall aura of the movie, the look – how the hell does one get across that fluidity in Fitzgerald’s writing, or the inherent plaintive sadness?

    • Exactly, it is a huge task, similar to On The Road, The Greaty Gatsby has an atmosphere to it that will be hard to replicate. Leo is very Jay-like and he has evolved into a great actor, hopefully his performance won’t have to carry the whole movie…

  25. Nice! I remember reading this book in high school and Leonardo DiCaprio will do well I think. This is making me want to revisit the book again.
    Also, I can’t help but get excited every time I hear about a book, tv show or even superhero coming to the big screen.

  26. Gatsby is my favorite book ever – to read and teach. And the absence of blacks is very intentional. Tom is a boor and would want nothing to do with “them.” They are not part of his world. He lives a different kind of life, a kind of affluence, a kind of brutishness that says as much about America’s imperialistic attitude at the time as anything else. And Daisy is complacent in her white dresses, in her white rooms, with her white billowy drapes and her blonde-haired children. Oh, the book is so delicious. Even if they put in the “green” symbolism and all the other good stuff, it will likely feel forced. That’s the way it goes in film. Of course I will have to see the movie if only to declare it was not as good as the book. How could it be?

    Congrats on being Freshly Pressed!

    Come visit me at “Lessons From Teachers and Twits.”
    (I’m usually the twit.”

    • As much as I’m being a bit cynical, I’ll have to see the movie too, for the same reasons, and I hope I’m wrong about it! I think you’re right, it’s so iconic that it will appear forced, and perhaps verge on cheesy, but hopefully it is done some justice.

      Really interesting comment, thanks :)

  27. Great post. I am a high school English teacher, and every year I get excited to teach The Great Gatsby. It was this novel (plus my great high school English teacher Mr. Hawkins or “Hawk” as we called him) that inspired me to go into the biz. I agree with you that the cinematography must be elegant and equate Fitzgerald’s beautiful language into visual art. The screenwriting MUST use the text, and yes, you’re right: no theme should go to the wayside. This novel is far more than a love affair that turns tragic. Gatsby is literary art at its finest. I do always show the movie starring Redford and Farrow, and every year without fail, my students snub their nose at the movie and refer back to their novels always asking me, “Why did they leave out the part where ______?” Or “I wanted to see more color themes and they should have done a close up of ____.” They even want to see a sharp close-up of the molars on Mayer Wolfsheim’s cuff links. It’s great to know that they too are using their critical eye on the movie that just doesn’t quite capture the magic, the themes, or the dreams of the characters like Fitzgerald did with his prose. I’m curious to see if Hollywood can treat this novel’s artwork with style and elegance and a sophisticated nuance. Odds are, they just ran out of ideas and thought this would make some money. Who knows? Only our $10 movie ticket,a bucket of popcorn and a large soda will give us the answers.

    • Yeah, hopefully it’s not going to be all about the money (although, clearly I’m dreaming!). I always hear of people who hated reading it at school and it always irritates me because I know how fabulous it is. I think if it’s taught well, kids would be interested, and I hope the movie creates a buzz and incites critical conversations in classrooms. I thought about teaching myself, and I can just imaging how I would approach this text: I love it so much that the kids might think me a little crazy :)

      Thanks for the comment! I cross my fingers that the movie version gets treated with the respect it deserves.

  28. I think this writer has some good things to say about this casting: I’ll be interested to see it. I had heard murmurings about Blake Lively being attached to this movie although if she is, I hope she’s Jordan Baker.

    Carey Mulligan will be good as Daisy, I believe. Daisy WAS very young; that’s part of the issue. She’s young, bored, privileged, jaded yet naive in many ways. Tobey Maguire, I would have misgivings about, except I recall him in Wonder Boys.

    DiCaprio…I don’t watch a lot of what he makes, but he’s worked with Lurhman before, and it’ll be interesting to see how he works in the role.

    If Lurhmann tones downs some of his tendencies towards freneticism, I am quite curious to see how he interprets Gatsby. It’s a fascinating time period, and a wonderful novel. I will definitely watch it, and expect to be engaged with it, whether or not I love it.

  29. I’ll have to veto Mulligan. (Because I’m on the Fitzgerald Adaptation Advisory Council–in my mind) She’s a damn good actress, but can she pull off vacuous yet magnetically sultry? Plus, as at least one reader’s already mentioned, she’s too young to be Daisy.
    But I’m with you when you say they’ve got to nail the extravagance and imagery, which is why I don’t feel wholly threatened by Baz Luhrman’s involvement. Here’s hoping they don’t Benjamin Button it up.

    • I know little about Carey Mulligan, but from what I’m seeing people absolutely love her or don’t think she’s right for the part. Oh god, I forgot how much of a let down Benjamin Button was. After I watched the movie, I read the story and couldn’t believe how different it was…

  30. Good Observations. I also think that its hard to transfer the feeling of a great classic into a movie, but then I don’t expect it.

    When watching a movie adaptation I expect something else – a movie can focus on the visual aspects and can dispense with a lot of dialogues if the director is great.

    But I agree The Great Gatsby has been unfortunate as all the adaptations have been just okay.

    Another classics which I guess is unlucky is Wuthering Heights. Except for the the Laurence Olivier one which was also not a very good adaptation.

    Let’s hope great directors turn to these classics.

  31. well, i am more sanguine about Hollywood trying time and again to capture the classics cinematically. for one, the buzz around such releases give the youth of today a renewed chance to visit the timeless classics of films and literature.
    on another note – yes, the best news so far is Caprio as Jay Gatsby… yay!!

    • I completely agree with you on the ‘buzz’. It would be great to see kids (and adults!) enjoy the movie and then perhaps decide to read the book! AND movie adaptations are good for the publishing industry, which is going through a transitional period, as again, it creates a hype.

      I’m remaining skeptical on the success of this one however, but I’m sure we’ll see in time. Thanks.

  32. Love your blog! I really want to spruce mine up, but i don’t know how to add pictures. How’d you do it? (On the right hand side).

    • Hi! Thanks for the comment. There should be an ‘image’ widget available to place in the sidebars, though not sure if this is dependent on the theme? Once you drag the image widget to your sidebar, you can enter the URL for an image from the internet or, if you wish to use an image from your computer, upload it to a image hosing website, and they will provide you with a direct URL to use.

      Not sure I’ve explained that very well but hope it helps!

  33. I’m halfway through The Great Gatsby for english class, in fact just finished an assignment on it. So when I saw this I just had to click on it! I hope the movie lives up to the book because I don’t normally like movies-from-books. Especially great works of art type books. :)

  34. I hadn’t heard about the remake. As a fellow lit student, I’ve read Gatsby countless times, and love it as well. I refuse to see any of the movie adaptations because there is no way a film can recreate Fitzgerald’s prose — something you articulated remarkably well in this post. However, this cast does intrigue me (though I’d be interested to discover who plays Tom and Myrtle) and as I learn more I *may* consider actually seeing this one. Great post, and congrats on freshlypressed!

    • Hi, thanks! I’m intrigued to see the rest of the line-up too, with an already quite impressive cast it will be interesting to see who else is involved.

      I will probably see it, even if it’s just to make comment on how terrible it is (although, I hope that’s not the case!)

  35. Fitzgerald’s novels is so brilliant in rhetoric. I don’t think big screen can explain the inner thought of his work.
    I like the character Daisy more the the story itself. Sometimes, you can’t help putting the story into reality, which made me miss the one I thought would never change, just like Daisy.

  36. See when I was in High School, this book ruined a good year of my life. I cant wait to see what theyve done with it, I always prefer the film to the book… :)

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