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May 10, 2013

'Gatsby' opens with great fanfare

Classic finds its way to Hollywood for fourth time with hot stars and soundtrack

Will the fourth time be a charm for “The Great Gatsby”?

Every few decades, Hollywood is entranced anew by F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel of high living and low morals in the Jazz Age. The story of the love between self-made millionaire Jay Gatsby and flighty aristocrat Daisy Buchanan has been filmed in 1926, 1949 and, most notoriously, in 1974 with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow. Often, though, it’s the filmmakers who learn the novel’s cruel lessons, spending time and money on a labor of love that ultimately exceeds their grasp.

Somebody once said you can’t repeat the past, but today, “The Great Gatsby” once again arrives in theaters with some of the hottest stars of the age. Leonardo DiCaprio plays the title role, Carey Mulligan is his elusive Daisy and Tobey Maguire portrays narrator Nick Carraway. Rounding out the cast are Joel Edgerton (“Warrior”) as Daisy’s husband, Tom, and Isla Fisher (“Wedding Crashers”) as his working-class plaything, Myrtle Wilson. The director is Baz Luhrmann (“Romeo + Juliet,” “Moulin Rouge!”), who co-wrote with his longtime collaborator, Craig Pearce.

It certainly isn’t the same old “Gatsby,” although it’s still set in the fictional Long Island villages of East Egg, and West Egg — inspired by Great Neck, where Fitzgerald briefly lived. With a reported budget of $100 million, this version is big, brassy, lavish and driven by an anachronistic hip-hop soundtrack (Jay-Z is the film’s executive producer). What’s more, it’s in 3-D.

Luhrmann seems aware that his “Gatsby” won’t please everyone. Wrapping up a three-day publicity marathon last weekend at the Plaza Hotel — a crucial locale in the novel — Luhrmann sums up the reactions he’s gotten so far: “Whatever their view of the film, they’re really engaged in the debate,” he says. “They love the book and they want to talk about it. Everyone owns ‘The Great Gatsby.’ It’s theirs, and don’t you touch it.”

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