The Arty Semite

Baz Luhrmann Talks Jay-Z and 'Gatsby'

By Zorianna Kit (Reuters)

  • Print
  • Share Share

Australian filmmaker Baz Luhrmann brings to life F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic American novel, “The Great Gatsby,” which opens in U.S. theaters Friday before unspooling at the Cannes Film Festival on May 15.

Getty Images
Baz Luhrmann

The film reunites Luhrmann with actor Leonardo DiCaprio, with whom he last worked on the big screen adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “Romeo + Juliet” in 1996.

DiCaprio stars as Jay Gatsby, a millionaire pining for a lost love, played by Carey Mulligan, during the height of the hedonistic 1920’s. Tobey Maguire and Joel Edgerton also star.

Luhrmann, 50, spoke to Zorianna Kit about working with DiCaprio and his collaboration with rapper Jay-Z on the film’s soundtrack.

Zorianna Kit: What was the difference between working with DiCaprio on “Romeo + Juliet” some 15 years ago and “The Great Gatsby” now?

Baz Luhrmann: Back then, he was very gifted, but he was a boy. Now he is a man and true partner in creativity. He’s been on film sets since he was a child and so he’s only ever known film culture. He knows what is a waste of time and he knows where to put the energy. He’s extremely exigent.

How so?

He’s was as much a producer of this movie, as much a co-writer — he and Tobey Maguire had me in our writing tent until 3 in the morning when we had to be shooting at 7 am — going round and round on materials. I loved it and it’s some of my greatest memories (from the shoot) but it also nearly killed me. I’m an older man. I was like, ‘Kids, give pops a break!’

How did you like working with Jay-Z on the soundtrack?

This is a man who is serially on time. If he says he’s going to be somewhere at 9 pm, he doesn’t arrive at five to nine, or five past nine. He arrives at nine. We worked closely on the music, literally together. He’s really funny, which was a surprise to me — kind of witty and dry. That was an enjoyable part of him.

How did you hook up with him?

Leonardo said, “Come up to the Mercer (Hotel in Manhattan) and meet Jay.” He was recording “No Church In the Wild” and I talked to him about the film. He was one of the first people to see a rough cut of the movie. He said, “Look, it’s inspirational. It’s about is Jay Gatsby a good man or not? Does he have a moral compass? Does he have a cause?

Do those born into money know a world that has moral elasticity? Do they have a purpose?” Fantastic debate, fantastic engagement. It’s what makes it a fantastic novel.

It’s hard to picture someone like Jay-Z sitting around reading “The Great Gatsby” since he’s always on the go.

I’ll tell you something fantastic. You want to see something amazing? Google “Gatsby” on YouTube and see how many African American kids are rapping about being Jay Gatsby. There must be 1,000 videos. It blew my mind. It’s amazing to see these kids really get that character. Some of the raps are awesome. Their storytelling is fantastic.

Will viewers relate to this film?

I think they’ll talk about it. Whether they like my choices or not, whether they think I desecrated the great holy grail of American literature or not, I think they will have to be part of the conversation. Somehow, it is a great reflector for everyone.

Once this film comes out, what’s next for you?

As it turns out, I’m in the middle of writing the live stage version of (his 1992 film) “Strictly Ballroom.” What an idiot I am! Could I possibly overbook myself more? But it has to open in March next year, so right now, I’m off to the writing room!


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Jay-Z, Gatsby, Film, Baz Luhrmann

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.