New York’s Times Square, circa 1922, digitally re-imagined
The rap against a number of previous attempts to bring F. Scott Fitzgerald’s magnum opus, “The Great Gatsby”, to the screen seems to have always been filmmakers were too faithful to the book. Well, Baz Luhrmann, the latest to tackle a film adaptation of the legendary book, has turned that complaint upside down. Literally.
He filmed it Down Under, in Australia.
And he filmed it in 3D. Take that, traditionalists!
The celebrated novel, written in 1925, is set in New York during the Roaring Twenties. It shifts between Jay Gatsby’s extravagant mansion on Long Island and Manhattan, with flashbacks to Louisville, Kentucky, and the American Midwest – where Gatsby’s roots supposedly lie.
But Mr. Luhrmann filmed in exactly NONE of those places. So, where was “The Great Gatsby” actually filmed?
In a word: Sydney.
Here is a rundown of some of the key locations:
Gatsby’s Estate – For the massive, lush estate, Mr. Luhrmann cast Centennial Park in Sydney, with its canopy of beautiful trees and vast lawns. The park’s ambience was supplemented by the construction of several large sets, including the guest house that Gatsby’s friend, Nick Carraway – the tale’s narrator, occupies on the estate. All the sets were taken down after the movie wrapped.
Gatsby’s Mansion – The actual mansion house is in a different location completely, away from Centennial Park, at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Sydney’s Manly area. (Land’s End, the actual Long Island mansion thought to have been Fitzgerald’s inspiration for Gatsby’s estate in the book, was demolished in 2011 because its owner said he couldn’t afford its upkeep.) Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban were married here in 2006.
Valley of the Ashes – The forlorn, run-down sort of no-man’s-land between Manhattan and the “Gold Coast” mansions of Gatsby and the Buchanans on Long Island – where the final plot point in the movie takes place – is an area of Sydney known as Balmain. Many of the driving scenes take place in this area.
One of the buildings used here is the old White Bay Power Station. Night scenes and scenes at “Wilson’s Garage” were shot here.
The (SPOILER ALERT) Funeral – Perhaps the bleakest moment in the film takes place at Sydney’s Waverley Cemetery. “Blessed are the dead that the rain falls on,” someone says. “Amen to that,” another answers.
Fox Studios in Sydney was used for sets depicting Manhattan, the New York skyline, and other interior scenes.
“The Great Gatsby” has now been made into five films; the reason people keep re-making it must be that nobody has gotten it right yet. If a roster of actors as diverse as Warner Baxter, Alan Ladd, Robert Redford and Toby Stephens have tackled the lead role, why can’t Sydney have its screen test?
After all, Ladd’s version was filmed entirely on the Paramount lot in Hollywood; Baxter’s silent version (now lost) was produced on sound stages; Stephens’ made-for-TV movie was produced entirely in Montreal; and Redford’s movie was filmed mostly in Rhode Island and England.
April 2, 2013