It has been said that the classic American novel "The Great Gatsby" is impossible to adapt for the big screen, but Australian director Baz Luhrmann has proved everyone wrong. His mesmerizing, music-filled take on the F. Scott Fitzgerald classic is highly entertaining while still staying extremely faithful to the source material. It works for several reasons, not the least of which is the fact that Leonardo DiCaprio was clearly the best choice to play titular character Jay Gatsby.
The project had been in development for quite some time, and many names were attached to play the various lead roles in the film. When it was finally announced that DiCaprio had won the coveted part, critics started conjecturing about whether he was the right choice. In the book, Gatsby is a man of mystery who lords over his lavish parties on an almost nightly basis while making shady backroom deals to amass the wealth he needs to keep the parties going. He is a legend among the party set in West Egg, the Long Island neighborhood where he lives. Despite his legendary status, hardly anyone knows a thing about him.
All of these traits found in Gatsby could easily apply to DiCaprio himself. He is a world famous actor—a bona fide movie star in an era where many movies are less and less reliant on big name movie stars. Despite his lofty status, he is still very much a mystery to the masses because he is notoriously private regarding his love life. He rarely talks about his time away from the camera, choosing to focus instead on his craft and deftly deflect questions about who he is dating. He rarely shows up in paparazzi pictures, mostly because he tends to shy away from the spotlight when he isn't doing publicity for one of his films.
If Jay Gatsby was a real person and an actor, he could very well be just like DiCaprio. Gatsby is charming, talented, and enigmatic, much like the actor portraying him. It would be hard for someone to think of another actor who embodies all of these same qualities, which is why it is also hard to imagine anyone else playing this role. DiCaprio barely had to step out of his own shoes in order to nail the performance. Sure, he still had to adapt to the demeanor and speech of the period, which he did with his usual attention to detail. A lot of acting was still involved, but anyone who watches the film can see a whole lot of DiCaprio hiding inside of Jay Gatsby.
In addition, DiCaprio had already worked with Luhrmann in "Romeo + Juliet," another pumped-up version of a classic tale. When an actor and director already have history together, it's easier for them to communicate and understand each other, and that usually results in a better performance and movie.
All of these are great reasons why DiCaprio was truly the best choice to play Gatsby, but the absolute top reason is the performance itself. After much anticipation and a few delays, the film was finally released in May 2013. DiCaprio received almost universal praise, all of which was very well deserved. In films like this that have a large cast of characters, it's very easy for a supporting actor to steal the thunder from the lead. Although "The Great Gatsby" could have been stolen by Joel Edgerton as the nefarious Tom Buchanan or Isla Fisher as his mistress, DiCaprio is so electric in his role that nobody has a chance to steal so much as a scene from him, much less the entire movie. It is DiCaprio's film from start to finish.
DiCaprio won't be able to bask in his glowing reviews for "The Great Gatsby" for much longer. He has already completed filming for the much-anticipated drama "The Wolf of Wall Street," which was directed by the legendary Martin Scorsese. DiCaprio and Scorsese had previously worked together on "The Departed," so it could be another example of how working with a director multiple times results in a fantastic, heightened performance. The film is slated to be released in November 2013, so publicity for it will likely begin in late October or early November. That leaves DiCaprio just a few more weeks to relish in his stellar notices before getting back on the publicity train.