Carey Mulligan & Tobey Maguire Interview For ‘The Great Gatsby’
‘The Great Gatsby’ follows F. Scott Fitzgerald-like, would-be writer Nick Carraway as he leaves the Midwest and comes to New York City in the spring of 1922, in the midst of the roaring twenties, glittering jazz and bootleg kings. Chasing his own American Dream, Nick lands next door to a mysterious, party-giving millionaire, Jay Gatsby, and across the bay from his cousin, Daisy, and her philandering, blue-blooded husband, Tom Buchanan. It is thus that Nick is drawn into the captivating world of the super rich, their illusions, loves and deceits. As Nick bears witness, he tells a tale of impossible love, incorruptible dreams and high-octane tragedy, and holds a mirror to our own modern times and struggles.
Baz Luhrmann directs the ‘The Great Gatsby’ from a screenplay co-written with frequent collaborator Craig Pearce, based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel of the same name. Lead by Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, ‘The Great Gatsby’ also stars Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway, Joel Edgerton and Carey Mulligan as Tom and Daisy Buchanan, Isla Fisher and Jason Clarke as Myrtle and George Wilson, newcomer Elizabeth Debicki as Jordan Baker, and Indian film legend Amitabh Bachchan as Meyer Wolfsheim. ‘The Great Gatsby’ is out now.
To play Daisy, other than F. Scott Fitzgerald’s original novel, what additional resources did you use to get into her mindset?
Carey Mulligan: From the beginning Baz really wanted to reference Zelda Fitzgerald and Ginevra King, who were the two woman F. Scott based Daisy on. So that’s where I started, and they were the most amazing resources. Getting to read Zelda’s diaries and letters to F. Scott and Ginevra King’s letters to Fitzgerald… you could literally see where he had taken parts of them and turned them into Daisy. When we started talking about Daisy, Baz gave me about 6 books about Zelda Fitzgerald and told me to read them all. And I was very lucky to read all the love letters from Ginevra to Fitzgerald, because there are holes in Daisy’s character and often she’s not saying what she means and she’s acting erratically.
Zelda and Ginevra were the two women who we based her on, she was really a cocktail of those people. Just reading how people spoke about them in that time, when they were young – and the way that they were raised, especially Ginevra King as she came from a very wealthy family, and the way Zelda was described by people when she was younger. Somebody said that she has as few worries or cares as a puppy or kitten, and we just talked about how at that time…. when I defend Daisy I always say that she came from a family who expected her to marry for money, and if she had done anything else it would have been scandalous. It’s hardly a weakness of character at that point. We talked about the family she was raised in. We’ve become more and more liberated I hope, and people still get trapped in loveless marriages and marry for the wrong reasons all the time.
And how was it playing a character that’s on the surface not very reactive?
Carey Mulligan: I think that’s sort of the core part of her, that she’s very easily led and she’s drawn to the strongest force in the room. I think she’s very reactive, I just don’t think she acts very well, she doesn’t make decisions. But I loved it, I loved playing Daisy. There were so many turns in her personality and so often she doesn’t say what she means, she says things for effect.
For me, the main thing about Daisy is her duality. She wants to be protected and safe and live in a certain way. But, at the same time, she wants epic romance. She’s just swayed by whatever is the strongest and most appealing thing. She’s not a grounded person or a genuine person, in a way. When we first meet Daisy, she is at a somewhat melancholic juncture in her life. I think that when Daisy says something, she really means it, but five minutes later she might not mean it at all. She’s almost living in a movie in her own life, looking in on herself, which makes for a rather thin personality that was probably typical of women in her circumstances, and interesting for me to play.
Tobey, seeing as Nick Carraway is described as “F. Scott Fitzgerald-like”, did you look into more of his writing or personal works, like Carey did to play Daisy?
Tobey Maguire: It was a little bit of all of that. We did look at a little bit of stuff around Fitzerald’s life and some of his other writing. We created this framing devise for Nick that some time has passed and he’s looking back and processing his feelings and thoughts and experiences of what happened over this summer. And there are clues to that in the book, with him saying that he’s looking back over what he’s written so far, and there are aspects of others things that Fitzgerald has written that influenced that framing devise as well. It was definitely a mixture.
For me, Nick Carraway is the moral conductor of the story, he takes us through the moral landscape and by the end he’s ready to find out who he is and what he wants….
Tobey Maguire: Yeah, definitely. I think Nick represents any person on a journey who’s searching for the right path. He’s sensitive, artistic… an observer. And in the end he’s disgusted by everyone’s behavior. And this is a character who, in the beginning of the book and film, is described as someone who reserves all judgments. Essentially, he still wants to believe that people, at their core, are good, so it breaks his heart to learn that they are not. And I think his own culpability and indulgence with these people adds to his disgust.
I read through he book and I’m looking at the language and the characters and I get excited, because it’s fantastic material. I lived with it for quite a while and got the opportunity to read many sections of this book and explore and experiment with the voiceover, for instance. I would read straight from the book but then sometimes I would paraphrase it – I tried to figure out ways to utilize it and have it connect to an audience, but still use that material. It was a lot of fun.
Considering Nick and Gatsby’s relationship in the story, how helpful was your friendship with Leonardo DiCaprio to play that?
Tobey Maguire: Very. I think Leo and I have a very trusting and close friendship, so I think that just the comfortable, open dialogue that we had in terms of the working process contributed to what we did. We were in it together. In regards to the actual texture chemistry of the relationship it’s harder for me to judge what contributed to that but I’m sure that had an effect there. I think the Nick and Gatsby relationship is such an interesting relationship to explore. From my point of view obviously I’m looking through the eyes of Nick and going through the book as Nick and in relationship to Gatsby in particular and the way that we made the movie and the way the book is written he’s looking back over his experiences. So there’s both the experiences in real time as he lived them and then Nick’s relationship to them later. So looking back through who Gatsby was to him personally and as an idea inspires Nick to go off into his own future, and then specifically having an understanding that Gatsby had an agenda for Nick but that unfolded into a real friendship, perhaps Gatsby’s only friendship, I think was very meaningful to Nick. And you know I definitely have an affection for Leo so it was easy for me to have an affection for Gatsby as Nick as well (laughs).
Carey, I have to ask about ‘Inside Llewyn Davis,’ I know you jumped straight into that after ‘The Great Gatsby’….?
Carey Mulligan: That was crazy. I had just wrapped ‘The Great Gatsby,’ got a plane to New York and started shooting two days later with the Coen Brothers. It was a totally different world and a completely different character. The Coen Brothers are so cool, unbelievably cool. It was a completely different set. They tend to stand behind the monitor and you occasionally hear them chuckle and you think, “Yes! I’ve done something really good!” (Laughs) They’re wonderful. It was great, I got to work with Oscar Isaac again, who I worked with on ‘Drive’ – I love him, he’s such a great actor. I had a great time.
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