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article imageLeonardo DiCaprio reflects on 'The Great Gatsby' Special

By Earl Dittman     Sep 4, 2013 in Entertainment
A longtime fan of the timeless, tragic tale about unfilled love and excess, the box office star was energized to take on the challenging lead role in 'The Great Gatsby' (now on Blu-ray/DVD). For DiCaprio, it was a chance to re-interpret a literary icon.
Based on the classic novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, director Baz Lurhmann's (Moulin Rouge, Romeo + Juliet) cinematic remake of The Great Gatsby became an instant box office hit when it was released this summer. A dazzling visual and emotional journey for movie-goers, the cast of The Great Gatsby features Tobey Maguire, (Spiderman) Carey Mulligan (Drive), Joel Edgerton (Zero Dark Thirty), Isla Fisher (Confessions Of A Shopaholic) and Leonardo DiCaprio (Titanic, Django Unchained) as the title character.
Set in 1922 in New York City, The Great Gatsby shines a glaring spotlight on a metropolis that has been transformed into a self-indulgent playground of the rich and powerful. Questionable morals, glitzy jazz, bootleg empires and stock manipulators are the order of the day. Fresh from the Midwest and in the search of the American Dream, aspiring writer Nick Carraway (Maguire) finds himself living in the house next to Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio), a enigmatic millionaire whose mansion is always packed with revelers who attend his lavish parties. Unbeknownst to Nick, his attractive, married cousin, Daisy (Mulligan), has romantic ties to Gatsby. Tragedy soon follows in this cautionary tale of impossible love and incorruptible dreams.
While the 1974 celluloid adaptation of Fitzgerald's tale of 1920's hedonism (which starred Robert Redford and Mia Farrow) was long considered the definitive film version of the novel, Luhrmann had a distinct, visionary approach in mind when he approached DiCaprio with the idea of portraying leading man, Jay Gatsby. DiCaprio was excited to work with his Romeo + Juliet director again, but the 38-year-old actor was well aware of how potentially risky it could be in re-envisioning such a classic tale for the silver screen. "The Great Gatsby is American Shakespeare," DiCaprio admitted. "It’s truly an American story, so you have to get it right.
Tobey Maguire portrays Nick Carraway and Leonardo DiCaprio is Jay Gatsby in  The Great Gatsby
Tobey Maguire portrays Nick Carraway and Leonardo DiCaprio is Jay Gatsby in 'The Great Gatsby'
Warner Brothers
"I remember reading it at 15, in junior high school," he recalled, this past May. "However, the novel was far different from the Gatsby I read as an adult. I remember this hopeless romantic who was in love with this woman. He created this wealth just to hold her hand. To read the book as an adult was even more fascinating. The novel is nuanced. At the center for me now is this man who is incredibly hollow and searching for some sort of meaning in his life. He has attached himself to this relic that is Daisy. Yes, she is a relic. She is a mirage.”
What does Jay Gatsby really feel for Daisy?
"Well, is he really in love with this woman – or with what she represents. Is she just a dream, too? He creates this Gatsby castle to lure her in. One of my favorite scenes is when he’s holding Daisy in his arms. He has the woman he lives in his arms, but stares outside. He’s still searching for this thing that will complete him. That was the Gatsby I was excited about playing as an actor."
Could you relate to Jay Gatsby?
“Yes, because aren’t we all Jay Gatsby? I think everyone has some sort of connection to Gatsby as a character. He’s a character who has created himself according to his own imagination and dreams. Gatsby was a poor youth in the Midwest and created this image that was the Great Gatsby. It’s the American dream. I think we can all relate to the dreamer in Gatsby. Each of us gets excited by the prospect of someone who has – we identify with somebody who has that much ambition.”
Is it true that when you first began your career, on a show like Growing Pains, you also felt like you needed to prove yourself?
"Yeah, when I started out, I didn’t have nice enough clothes. My hair didn’t look good. I felt like I didn’t belong in Hollywood where everyone was perfect. That always propelled me. It made me want to try harder.”
Leonardo DiCaprio  Carey Mulligan and Joel Edgerton in a scene from  The Great Gatsby
Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Joel Edgerton in a scene from 'The Great Gatsby'
Warner Brothers
What was it like working with your longtime, real-life pal, Tobey Maguire?
“To have someone I’ve known for 20 years like Tobey Maguire was incredibly comforting. We’re always extremely honest with each other. I don’t know if this project would have happened unless we had that relationship. We needed those checks and balances."
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Warner Bros
What is the biggest lesson viewers should take away from The Great Gatsby?“In a lot of ways, this book predicted the great crash in the early 1930s in America. It talks about the great opulence and wealth in America and the idea that the future is endless. We can’t keep consuming without any consequences,. We encounter this again and again, but do we ever learn?”
The Great Gatsby Bonus Blu-ray (Blu-ray + DVD + Ultraviolet) Features: "The Greatness Of Gatsby": Follow director Baz Luhrmann's journey to bring the great American novel to the silver screen; "Within And Without" with Tobey Maguire; "The Swinging Sounds Of Gatsby"; Deleted Scenes with alternate ending; The Jazz Age; "Razzle Dazzle: The Fashions Of The '20s"; Fitzgerald's "Visual Poetry; "Gatsby Revealed" and 1926 The Great Gatsby trailer.
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Paramount
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