I stumbled across a reference on an internet back road today about a Martin Scorsese version of The Great Gatsby and my head almost fell off from shock. Turns out, what I read actually referred to this season's HBO show Entourage in which the Gatsby/Scorsese project is a fictitious production written into the plot of the show. Entourage, with its savvy finger-on-the-pulse of Tinseltown sensibility may or may not have contributed to the development of projects before. For instance, a movie about notorious Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar that may or may not be directed by Joe Carnahan (Smokin' Aces) when his current film, White Jazz wraps. Read more about the Entourage phenom here.
But I digress.
My point is that this set me Googling Gatsby, one of my favorite novels ever. I have read this work countless times. It's one of those books I turn to like an old, impossibly soft pair of jeans or a warm blanket straight out of the dryer on a cold night. For me, when I'm down, there's no literary comfort like Gatsby:
"And as I sat there, brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby's wonder when he first picked out Daisy's light at the end of his dock. He had come such a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close he could hardly fail to grasp it. But what he did not know was that it was already behind him, somewhere in the vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night."
Wonderful. There's an undercurrent (overcurrent?) that runs through Fitzgerald's writing that is hopeless and haunting. Doomed. I love it. "Gatsby" is the grandaddy of them all. It is filled with hopeless nostalgic longing. Gatsby never fails to comfort me in that, if nothing else, it assures me this is the human condition.
It is the nostalgic quality, I think, that makes the Gatsby story so hard to pin down in a film. If it were music, it would be a heartbreaking single violin solo. The 1970s version of "The Great Gatsby" starring Mia Farrow as Daisy, Robert Redford as Gatsby, Sam Waterston as Nick Carraway, Bruce Dern as Tom Buchanan, and Karen Black as Myrtle Wilson, in my opinion, could not possibly have been more perfectly cast. (Not to mention scored: "What'll I do?") I see these actors in my mind in those roles when I read the book to this day. Still, the movie somehow didn't quite work (though I still watch it now and then) and I can never put my finger on precisely why. It is technically remarkably faithful to the book. Each scene is played as written. Unlike the book, however, the sum of the movie's parts do not add up to anything greater.
What I learned today is that Australian director Baz Luhrmann is taking a crack at it. The movie is in the impossibly early stages, is not yet even cast. This MTV blog post speculates that Luhrman might collaborate again with Leonardo Di Caprio who, in my opinion, would make an excellent Gatsby. He's the right age (maybe even plus a few years) with the right acting chops to do the job. (Let's hope!) The buzz, however, indicates Luhrmann may be favoring Di Caprio for the role of Nick Carraway (so wrong!)
Okay, I'll just go ahead and say it, what they may be very likely thinking is Brad Pitt as Gatsby and Di Caprio as Carraway. A choice so monumentally wrong, so utterly stupid, that it makes my stomach roll. Brad Pitt is a cute guy. He provides plentiful excellent sperm for skank-ho turned international goodwill ambassador, Angelina Jolie. He did an okay job in a few movies. He has never, ever done anything outstanding. He is absolutely one-hundred percent NOT. JAY. GATSBY. DO YOU HEAR ME BAZ LUHRMANN?
We must also note, Luhrmann's most recent work, "Australia"? Floptastic. On still other hands, Moulin Rouge and Romeo + Juliet. Both innovative and successful. If "Gatsby" is going to work, it's going to take someone with some nerve. I'm going to go ahead and hope for the best.
But I suspect it's doomed. Utterly, impossibly, hopelessly.