Bazmark Films has optioned The Great Gatsby, with principal photography rumoured to commence in 2010. Of course, Baz Luhrmann is not alone in being allured by F. Scott Fitzgerald's great American novel nor will he be the first 'foreigner' to direct the literary classic.
First published in 1925, The Great Gatsby is the story of the fabulously wealthy Tom and Daisy Buchanan, her cousin twice removed Nick Carraway, and his neighbour, the illusive and beguiling Jay Gatsby. The novel takes place in 1922 in New York and on Long Island's east and west 'eggs'. These are north shore sites of 'old' and 'new' money and are the summer playgrounds of the rich with hot jazz parties and cold champagne flowing freely during the era of prohibition.
The Great Gatsby captivates every generation. The most famous film version being Jack Clayton's 1974 feature written by Francis Ford Coppola for Paramount Pictures starring Robert Redford as Jay, Mia Farrow as Daisy and Sam Waterston (Law & Order) as Nick.
British director Clayton was renowned for adapting literature for the screen and he did so with considerable success. Tennessee Williams said Clayton's was “a film that surpassed” the novel (Williams, p. 178). A controversial statement to be sure – but it would have been even more controversial had he directed from the original script penned by Truman Capote. Clayton said of Capote's script, “it's like a great fish that's all head and no tail… what we have to do is to make it seem to go fast, and yet develop it from every dramatic possibility,” (Sinyard, p. 146). Allegedly Capote also drew out characterisations of Nick and Daisy's friend, Jordan Baker that were overtly homosexual which led to Coppola taking over.
Closer to home, writer and illustrator Nicki Greenberg published her graphic adaptation of The Great Gatsby in 2007. Nicki tells me that she fell in love “with the glamour and the tragedy and the extraordinary writing” when she was 17. Having undertaken the rigorous editing process involved in the adaptation – “choosing which things to represent in pictures, which text to use directly and how to have the pictures and the text in dialogue with each other” six years of toil later, Nicki's book is a re-imagining of epic proportions which sees the characters drawn as figures that are not human. Says Nicki, “I wanted the characters physical forms to show something about their personalities — Nick's shy antennae and soft body, the lift of Daisy's dandelion head on her slender neck, Jordan's languid tentacles - my aim was to make their physical attributes embody and illuminate their personalities.”
While we all must wait to see what Baz will do, it will no doubt be spectacular. Catherine Martin is going to have a field day with production and costume design — in the 1974 film Gatsby's wardrobe was by Ralph Lauren with jewellry by Cartier not to mention ladies outfits with feathers and sequins to make you swoon. Ooh la la.
Greenberg, Nicki's graphic adaptation of the novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby. China: Allen & Unwin, 2007.
Sinyard, Neil. Jack Clayton: British Film Makers UK: Manchester University Press, 2000.
Taylor, Kendall. Zelda & Scott Fitzgerald. Australia: HarperCollins, 2001.
Williams, Tennessee. Memoirs. New York: Doubleday and Co., 1975.