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The Great Gatsby Director At Soundview

Baz Luhrmann, the internationally acclaimed writer, producer and director of the new 3-D adaptation of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, captivated the invitation-only audience at the Long Island premier of the film last Wednesday night at Soundview Cinemas.

“It’s touching for me to be here in Port Washington,” said Luhrmann, a native Australian. “I grew up in a small town where my father had a cinema for a short time. It’s like inviting people into your lounge room to sit in the dark and experience something together.” Luhrmann took notice of all the care that went into refurbishing the Soundview Theater, telling the guests that there really is so much buzz out there about the reopening.

It’s been three years since his team traveled out to Nassau County to research the many old estates and mansions such as Oheka Castle, Westbury Gardens, and of course the Hempstead House at the Sands Point Preserve—the venue chosen for the premiere’s after-party.

 Although most of the film was shot in Australia due to financial considerations, viewers will recognize the mansions of the Gold Coast which were faithfully reproduced on location. The East Egg and West Egg towns (referenced in the movie but said to be made-up names for the story) are actually Sands Point and Kings Point where Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald lived while he wrote the novel.  

When press questioned Luhrmann about the five preceding Gatsby films (none of which achieved critical acclaim), he said he hadn’t seen the earlier versions but, “Gatsby should be re-made every 10 years. Gatsby is the quintessential American novel. Changing times bring new perspectives. It is like Hamlet; the story of Gatsby lives on and is always relevant. Everyone thinks they know Gatsby, but no one ever does.”

Another questioner asked about the use of hip-hop music instead of jazz for the movie’s soundtrack. Luhrmann pointed out that at the time Fitzgerald wrote his novel, jazz was a new experimental sound which the author embraced, even coining the term “jazz age.” Luhrmann said that hip-hop is the jazz of today and believes Fitzgerald would have embraced the new sound.

Ending his personal remarks before the film began, Luhrmann told the audience he had the most wonderful experience last week after his four-year journey in making The Great Gatsby. After a prior screening, a very regal older lady approached him from out of the audience, leaving him speechless for a moment. “She held me by the hand and told me she just came to see what I did with her grandfather’s book. ’I think he would have been very proud because ever since he’s died, people have said you can’t turn his books into films, but I think you have done it.’”  

Keira Chaplain, granddaughter of Charlie Chaplin, also who made an appearance at the Soundview Theater premiere.