Baz Luhrmann cranks up style for The Great Gatsby

Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of The Great Gatsby is stylish and striking, but critics are divided on whether he captures the essense of the classic novel.

Director says Leo DiCaprio played strong role in developing film based on classic novel

The Great Gatsby

10 years ago
Duration 5:08
Baz Luhrmann's extravagant Gatsby good but not great, says Eli Glasner

Everything about producing his film version of The Great Gatsby was a risk, says director Baz Luhrmann.

The Australian known for sweeping epics such as 2008's Australia and the stylish musical Moulin Rouge cranks up the style factor for his latest movie, based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s much-loved novel.

But in taking a literary classic to the screen, he’s bound to run afoul of purists who see the book in a different light.

He recreates the Jazz Age, laying on the glitz from the flapper dresses to the lavish parties at Gatsby’s castle-like home in West Egg (a fictional community on Long Island, N.Y.) The costumes and production design are done by his wife Catherine Martin.

But he deviates from period authenticity with a sound track that includes hip hop songs by Jay-Z and collaborators.

Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby. The actor played a strong role in developing the film. (Matt Hart/Warner Bros. Pictures/Associated Press)

"I think without consciously doing it, there’s no middle ground with me or my productions," Luhrmann told CBC News. " I don’t notice it. It’s just the way I do things. But I recognize that everything’s absolute… to me it’s completely absorbing and I get really absorbed in it."

The Great Gatsby reunites Luhrmann with Leonardo DiCaprio, who played Romeo in Luhrmann’s 1996 film version of Romeo and Juliet. At that time, DiCaprio was just 21 – he’s now 38.

"He was a very gifted boy. He was dazzling and interesting and great and funny but he was a gifted boy. Now he is a truly mature man and in this regard he was a true partner in creation of The Great Gatsby," Luhrmann said.

DiCaprio’s role as Jay Gatsby, the self-made millionaire in love with a woman he cannot have, is hotly anticipated.

Luhrmann says the actor is great friends with Toby Maguire, who is playing Gatsby’s friend Nick Carraway and the three of them made a "tight triangle" during the development and shooting of the movie.

Also in the cast are Carey Mulligan as Daisy and Joel Edgerton as Tom Buchanan.

The Great Gatsby is released Friday across most of Canada.