This weekend, The Great Gatsby didn't quite overtake Tony Stark and his mechanical suit of wonder in Iron Man 3, but the literature-inspired flick did make quite a dent in the weekend box office. And that means many you flocked to the theater to see what Baz Luhrmann did with F. Scott Fitzgerald's beloved text and maybe, just maybe, the polarizing adaptation left you with a few burning questions. That's what we're here for. We've got the scoop on the history and production of Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby.
1. Those parties were breathtaking! Did Luhrmann actually throw extravagant parties and capture them on film?Well, sort of. At the junket for The Great Gatsby, Luhrmann explained how he acheived the "wild party feel" in the first party of the film at Tom (Joel Edgerton) and Myrtle's (Isla Fisher) love nest:
We wanted to go there, but we weren't quite sure how to ... and then I said, we've got 20 minutes left let's turn all the cameras on and just go for it ... and right in the middle of the jazz, I just turned up very loudly a track called 'NYMP,' which is a Jay-Z track which was mixed with jazz, and things took off and the cameras rolled for twenty minutes. And there's a moment, and you see it in the film, when a very expensive lamp smashes. And my first assistant said, 'Baz, Baz, we gotta shut it down.' Because by then it was crazy mayhem, of levels you can only imagine: it was clothes coming off and feather fights and flowers being thrown. And I remember I grabbed everyone and I said, 'Get in the bedroom' and they kept rolling and that's how it became known as the 'orgy scene.'
While he's probably joking about the orgy part, it does appear that the partying in the film was somewhat real. (Which sounds like this may have been the best job ever.)
2. Most of the song covers are pretty easy to identify, but who's the woman covering "Crazy in Love" in the flower scene at Nick's (Tobey Maguire) house?Emeli Sande is an English pop singer who's just beginning to acheive fame in the U.S. Her last album, Our Version of Events, was number one on the UK charts for seven straight weeks in 2012 and she performed at both the opening and closing ceremonies of the London Olympics. You may also recognize her voice from her single (which was also performed by Candice Glover on American Idol last week) "Next to Me."
3. They drive around like mad men with no knowledge of seat belt safety in this movie – didn't they have normal safety measures back then?As it turns out, they didn't. Some cars came with flimsy seatbelts, but there were no laws governing the use or inclusion of seatbelts in the design of motor vehicles. It wasn't until 1964 the seatbelts were made standard by law, and even then, the requirements only stated that cars needed belts in the front seat. It was a dangerous time to be a driver or even in the vacinity of cars – something poor Myrtle Wilson has to learn firsthand.
4. Is Tom Buchanan's racist book real? Did people in the '20s really think there was an actual war between the races?Almost. Tom's book, The Rise of the Colored Empires by some man named Goddard, is not actually a real book. However, the idea that black Americans were some foreign force seeking to take over the white man's hold on America was a real theory proclaimed in a similarly-named book by Theodore Stoddard in 1920. His book was called The Rising Tide of Color Against the White World Supremacy, so if anything, Fitzgerald's version was a much milder version of the truly hateful book from Stoddard.
5. Jordan Baker and George Wilson are scene stealers! Where do I know those actors from?Wilson is played by Jason Clarke, who you may recognize as a scene-stealer from other films like Zero Dark Thirty, in which he played an FBI agent who introduced Jessica Chastain's character to the underbelly of interrogation tactics, and the summer drama Lawless, in which he played a member of a free-wheeling bootlegging family that included Tom Hardy and Shia LeBeouf. He's certainly an actor to keep an eye on in upcoming films like Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.
The actress who plays Baker, Elizabeth Debecki, is a rising star in Austrailia, but this is her first introduction to American audiences. However, her arresting performance as the lithe golfer is sure to make her a face to watch stateside as well.
6. Is the Valley of Ashes a real place in Queens, New York?It was. Though the that place no longer exists, it was a real area of Queens that has since become Flushing Meadows Park and was once known as the Coronoa Ash Dumps. The signature ashes were repurposed, at the request of Robert Moses (the "master builder" of mid-20th century New York City), to create the base for the Van Wyck expressway, which runs alongside the park. Flushing Meadows park built for the 1939 Worlds Fair (and little beknownst to Moses, the opening title sequence of King Of Queens, and the closing sequence ofMen In Black).
7. Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio) makes such a big deal about all those oranges and the juice presser. Was it really a sign of wealth to have a mountain of citrus fruit at your disposal?Not really. But man, does it look beautiful on the screen. In the early 1920s, it cost about $10 dollars for the "200 oranges" Gatsby boasts for his morning mimosa with Daisy (Carey Mulligan), and the modern day equivalent of that many citrus fruits is about $130 dollars. It's chump change for a millionaire, but while the notion that he had someone fresh pressing his OJ for him every day in record time on some fancy juicer was the real luxury, it certainly makes for a better image to have an avalanche of orange orbs.
8. Myrtle's dog might have been the cutest movie dog in the history of movie dogs. Seriously. How do I get one? What kind of dog is he?If you want a pup like Mrs. Wilson's gift of adultery, a grey schnauser puppy would do it.
9. How historically accurate are Daisy's clothes? That jewel-network of a dress at Gatsby's party seems a bit modern.The film's costume designer (and Luhrmann's wife) Catherine Martin has said she stayed true to the time period, but that Lurhmann had her open it up the to the Gatsby Era (between 1920 and 1927), rather than just the year the book was set in. In that way, she had a bit more freedom with her designs, she spoke to Fashionista.com about the details of the era:
But what you realize even by the early ’20s, just about any silhouette–from a bias cut, to a strapless, to a robe de style, had all been invented. One shouldered looks, beading, embroidering, harem pants, feathered skirts, halter necks, v-necks… all kinds of different silhouettes. We think of the ’20s as a shift, a beaded embroidered fringed shift. And in reality the silhouettes were incredibly varied and had all kinds of influences form folkloric to Arabic, Orientalism–every kind of influence that you can possibly imagine, including Egyptian by the time Tutankhamun’s tomb had been opened up.
So there you have it. What else about The Great Gatsby left you with a quizzical brow?
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What is an ensemble cast? How many actors constitute one? There aren’t any guidelines that determine what qualifies as a true ensemble, but if anyone can offer some insight it would be Woody Allen, who has been getting great groups of actors together for decades now. From Manhattan and Hannah and Her Sisters to Melinda and Melinda and You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, he’s always had a keen eye for casting and the stars continue to line up to work with the iconic auteur.
With the home entertainment release of his latest, fore mentioned film at hand, I thought it’d be apt to honor some of the coolest ensemble casts ever assembled. Keep in mind: this isn’t a list of the best films featuring an ensemble cast. It’s about the best rosters of talent roped in for a single production.
This under-appreciated Tony Scott action spectacle was polarizing to audiences because of its ultra-violent approach, particularly toward women. But Patricia Arquette proved herself to be one tough chick, able to take a beating a give it back in equal measure. Together with her beau-to-be Christian Slater, she embarks on an odyssey to free herself from pimp Gary Oldman and, later, his criminal overlord Christopher Walken, all while L.A. detectives Tom Sizemore and Chris Penn are hot on the trail of drugs and blood. With bonus appearances by Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Michael Rapaport and more, True Romance is a twisted web of cameos and special roles filled by some of the coolest actors of the time.
The Thin Red Line
WWII films have a long history of stellar casts comprised of legions of screen legends. This 1998 genre entry continues that grand tradition with enough A-listers to make five separate movies. George Clooney, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Adrien Brody, Miranda Otto, John Cusack, John C. Reilly, Woody Harrelson, John Travolta, Nick Stahl, Elias Koteas and Jim Caviezel all appear in the prestigious picture at one point or another – a logistic achievement in and of itself.
This sweet rom-com gets me every time. Not just because of the cheerful dialogue and warm and fuzzy relationships, but also because of the charming cast of characters played by Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Laura Linney, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightley, Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, January Jones, Elisha Cuthbert, Rodrigo Santoro, Shannon Elizabeth, Andrew Lincoln, Denise Richards and the adorable Thomas Sangster. Together, there are around eight revolving, relatable romances in the film, but we wouldn’t have cared about any of them if not for the lovable cast.
In telling this sprawling tale about the intersecting lives of a handful of Angelenos, director Paul Haggis needed an international cast to represent the diverse population of the City of Angels. He got it with Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock, Jennifer Esposito, Shaun Toub, Daniel Dae Kim, Matt Dillon, Loretta Devine, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Howard, Keith David, Ryan Phillippe, Michael Pena, Tony Danza and Thandie Newton. Though Dillon was the only actor recognized by the Academy at awards time, the triumph of the film belongs to its eclectic cast.
The Magnificent Seven
Akira Kurasawa’s epic Seven Samurai was practically begging for a Hollywood adaptation when it was released in 1954. By 1960, director John Sturges had made it a reality with a pack of screen idols including the dashing Yul Brynner, the inimitable Eli Wallach, the ultra-cool Steve McQueen, the bad-ass Charles Bronson, the slick Robert Vaughn, the cool James Coburn and the “newbie” Horst Buchholz. The septuplet of stars had a great deal of chemistry that made their on-screen antics all the more enjoyable to watch, and fifty years later their work on this classic film has become the stuff of movie mythology.
The star power packed into these popular motion pictures is astonishing. With Hollywood heavyweights like George Clooney, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt leading an army of talent - young and old - including Don Cheadle, Scott Caan, Bernie Mac, Andy Garcia, Carl Reiner, Eddie Jemison, Elliot Gould, Casey Affleck and Julia Roberts, there's no shortage of charisma throughout the film. You may be wondering why I chose Oceans Twelve over the 2001 remake of the 1960 original; it's because this hit heist pic also features the likes of Catherine Zeta-Jones, Albert Finney, Robbie Coltrane, Jared Harris, Vincent Cassel and Bruce Willis in appearances big and small. Not too shabby for a sequel...
Forget the awful 2008 remake. I implore you to give the original a chance. It’s a virtual who’s who of top Hollywood talent of the era. The premise is simple by today’s standards, but in 1939 its empowering themes were ahead of its time. Some of best actresses to ever grace the silver screen, including Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Joan Fontaine, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, Lucile Watson and Marjorie Main delivered the message. All of the above are Oscar winners or nominees, making this cast of female performers one of the most celebrated of all time.
I’m not sure if Francis Ford Coppola knew what he was onto when he picked his rag-tag group of actors for this kick-ass 1983 film. After all, most of the actors were relatively unknown and untested at the time (save for C. Thomas Howell, who had just starred in Steven Spielberg's E.T.), but that quickly changed in the years following its release. Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Rob Lowe, Diane Lane and Tom Cruise all appeared in the acclaimed teen drama, leaving behind one hell of a legacy.
Top Story: Gandolfini Spreading Sopranos Wealth
Even though The Sopranos star James Gandolfini raked HBO over the coals earlier this year in a salary renegotiation, he is apparently a generous guy to his colleagues. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Gandolfini handed over much of his first advance from his share of Sopranos profits to his fellow castmates, including Edie Falco, Lorraine Bracco and Michael Imperioli, who are all now in production for The Sopranos' fifth season. Sources told The Reporter Gandolfini divvied up about $500,000 of his own cash as a way of recognizing that the show's success is due to the strength of its ensemble cast. "It was always part of his plan [during the renegotiations] to share some of the wealth with the other actors," a source close to Gandolfini said. "He has always called this show an ensemble, from Day 1." Meanwhile, Sopranos creator/executive producer David Chase is currently in negotiations with HBO for a possible sixth season.
Newscaster David Brinkley Dies
David Brinkley, one of news journalism's enduring legends, died Wednesday from unspecified complications after an earlier fall, Reuters reports. He was 82. Brinkley was co-anchor of NBC television's evening news program and later hosted of the Sunday current affairs program on ABC, This Week With David Brinkley,
Chicago Gets More Screen Time
Miramax Films is planning to re-release their Oscar-winning Chicago in theaters to help boost sales for the home video release. Variety reports the Chicago run, slated to start July 18, will feature a new version of the movie that includes an additional song-and-dance number cut from the original theatrical release. The DVD version, which hits retail shelves Aug. 19, also will feature the additional scene.
Director Fuqua Ordered To Settle Lawsuit
A judge Thursday ordered attorneys for Antoine Fuqua and a woman who claims she had an affair with the Training Day director to try to settle their legal dispute before it "spirals into the abyss,'' City News Service reports. Personal trainer Tanya Evans filed a malicious prosecution suit against Fuqua, who denies ever knowing Evans, in March, claiming the director and his wife, actress Lela Rochon, made false accusations of harassment that led to Evans' arrest last May.
For Love or Drink?
Rob Campos, the bachelor star of NBC's For Love or Money, has been let go from his job as an independent contractor at a Dallas law firm due to reports that he was expelled from military service in 1999 for drunkenly groping a female officer, The Associated Press reports, as well as for his behavior during the show's second episode where Campos made drunken romantic overtures to several women during an alcohol-soaked party in a hot tub. The 33-year-old Campos is the star of the romantic fantasy game, where he must choose a potential mate from among 15 women. The woman will be asked to choose between Campos and a $1 million prize. Hmmm.
Woman Sues Rosie's Defunct Show
Lucille DeBellis of Hartsdale, N.Y. has sued the producers of the now defunct The Rosie O'Donnell Show for injuring her with a hard rubber ball, AP reports. DeBellis, who was an audience member during a taping in November 2001, claims she was hit in the mouth when a show staffer flung a ball into the audience. AP reports the court papers say her physical discomfort and embarrassment about her appearance caused her to turn down holiday parties and other social events during the 2001 Christmas season as well as adversely affecting her relationship with her boyfriend.
Linkin Park Singer Bolts From Hospital
Chester Bennington, lead singer of the metal band Linkin Park, was released from a Los Angeles hospital after suffering from severe back and abdominal pains due to a virus, Billboard magazine reports. The group, which had to cancel 12 European dates, plans to reschedule the tour soon.
A Stripped Down Adam Ant
British pop singer Adam Ant, aka Stuart Goddard, was arrested Wednesday after he went "berserk" in a café near his London home and stripped off his pants, Reuters reports. This latest fracas follows an incident last summer when Goddard threatened customers at a local pub for laughing at his cowboy attire. He was freed in October after judges ruled he was suffering from temporary mental illness.
Luhrmann's La Boheme Closes Curtain
Australian director Baz Luhrmann's opulent version of the Puccini opera La Boheme, which recently lost out to Nine at the Tony Awards for best musical revival, will fold June 29 after a disappointing seven-month run and losses of about $6 million, AP reports. "We just didn't reach the suburban, traditional musical theatergoing audience," producer Jeffrey Seller told AP Wednesday. "We reached the cognoscenti, we reached the kids, we reached the Baz fans, we reached art lovers in New York City, particularly Manhattan."
Role Call: Spader Joins The Practice, Fall Guy Goes Big Screen
Secretary star James Spader is in final negotiations to join ABC's legal drama The Practice in wake of the recent exit of six cast members including Dylan McDermott and Lara Flynn Boyle. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Spader will play Alan Shore, a complicated and ethically challenged lawyer…Meanwhile, Warner Bros. is developing a feature film around the popular '80s series The Fall Guy, which starred Lee Majors as a stuntman who moonlights as a bounty hunter. Oh, why not?