Written by Sarah

Baz Luhrmann’s production of The Great Gatsby is going into production this week, in Luhrmann’s native Australia. The Great Gatsby, on the short list of Great American Novels, is being filmed down under. In Australia.

Normally, I don’t care about this stuff. You make your movie wherever you need to, wherever is most cost-effective, wherever invokes your environment best. And Luhrmann is a director who puts Oz first, filming three of his four films there (David Cronenberg does this too, working primarily in Canada). This is an attitude I can appreciate—home-country pride combined with a desire to work outside Hollywood.

But…it’s Gatsby. It’s a uniquely American story. And it bugs me that it’s not being made in America.

I just think that some stories belong irrevocably to a certain place. For instance, I love this book A Fraction of the Whole. It’s written by an Australian, Steve Toltz, and it’s set in a small town in rural Australia. The story is uniquely Aussie. More than just how the characters talk and more than a few place names, Fraction depends a lot on the isolation of Oz and how the environment affects certain events in the book. Further, the characters are grounded in a tangible sense of Australia-ness. It permeates the whole book (a really, really good read and I highly recommend it). If someone came up to me right now and said, “Sarah, I want you to adapt A Fraction of the Whole into a movie,” it would never occur to me to make that movie anywhere other than in Australia.

It’s the same with Gatsby. Gatsby just…belongs on Long Island. I can’t make myself like that Luhrmann is making Gatsby on a soundstage in Australia, in a totally false environment, when this real place exists. (Though sadly, the house believed to have inspired Daisy Buchanan’s East Egg estate was recently razed. Check out this photo essay of the house in the days before it was demolished.) The Great Gatsby is the product of a particular place and time. The time you have to reinvent but the place is already there. Instead though Luhrmann is using one of his Day-Glo Aussie sets. I like Luhrmann’s movies (except for Australia, that blew chunks), but I’m not sure his “grandiose spectacle” style is right for Gatsby. Also, this will be 3D, which is…why?

I don’t doubt that Luhrmann can make an interesting, engaging adaptation of Gatsby. I’m just not sold on doing it in Australia, in a place that forces you to fake everything about a story that has resonated for nearly a hundred years because of the way it captured a specific time in a specific place. But I’m probably just being an *sshole American about this.

Attached - Leonardo DiCaprio arriving in Australia to begin shooting. Tobey Maguire was also seen on set the other day.

Photos from Flynetonline.com and Fame