Casting the Classics – ‘The Great Gatsby’

Since Baz Luhrmann’s cinematic adaptation of The Great Gatsby premièred a little while ago at the Cannes Film Festival, now seems like a good time to post a dream cast for a film version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic tale of empty dreams, and lost love.

So, while this doesn’t cover the entire group of characters in the novel, it is a cast list for the ones who are perhaps at the core of the story.

Michael Fassbender as Tom Buchanan

Tom Buchanan is something of a base and vitriolic man, perhaps best known for his hard edge, both in terms of his physicality, and philosophy. After all, one of the first things he says in the book is “the whole world’s gone to Hell.” As the novel’s story progresses, Tom becomes more on edge and angry, and from the performances of Fassbender’s I’ve seen, they have a tendency to be a bit more reserved (his leading turns in both of Steve McQueen’s films – Hunger and Shame), so it would be very interesting to see some more outward and explosive acting from him. He definitely has it in him as an actor, and it’d be nice to see him doing some work that’s perhaps outside of his usual repertoire.


Jessica Chastain as Daisy Buchanan

Daisy might be my favourite character in the novel, and since I thought perhaps the best decision that was made in developing Luhrmann’s movie was casting Carey Mulligan as Daisy, which I consider to be pretty much perfect casting. However, I decided against picking actors from past adaptations, so I’ve had to cast someone else, and Jessica Chastain seemed like a great choice.

On the surface, Daisy always struck me as being very fragile, and I think Chastain can convey that well in terms of both her physicality and performance (there are a few scenes in Lawless that show this side of her acting really well), although what’s most interesting about her is how she changes around Gatsby, she seems to become full of life and hope (there is of course some irony to that considering the vapid hopelessness of their doomed romance). Perhaps selfish at heart, to me, Daisy seemed almost as enigmatic as the eponymous Gatsby, and Jessica Chastain seems like an actress who could bring an interesting a layered interpretation to the character.


Matt Damon as Nick Carraway 

I was racking my brain for quite a while in trying to find a Nick for this post, since given Nick is of course unseen in the novel, it can be difficult to cast someone to play him, there’s no real physical reference point to go from. And based on the character in the novel, Nick needs to have an intangible ‘everyman’ quality about himself, and for some reason, when trying to cast this role, I couldn’t quite shake Damon from the back of my mind.

Perhaps it’s more difficult to write about Nick than the other characters, since he feels more reactionary than the rest of them, but I feel like, since Damon has that ‘everman’ quality, and is of course an accomplished actor, he’s more than capable of dealing with the material that the novel gives him, and watching Nick reach his final disillusionment would be powerful when handled by Damon.

Jon Hamm as Jay Gatsby

Perhaps it’s odd to leave the casting of Gatsby until the end of the piece, especially given that he’s not the lead of the novel, but given his revelation is saved for the first couple of chapters of the novel, it seems fitting to wait until last to show who could play Gatsby.

Of course, we’ve all seen Jon Hamm play the enigma as Don Draper on Mad Men, and while his performance there is mostly quiet and understated (largely in fitting with the material in The Great Gatsby), there are some elements that stretch beyond that, and so seeing Jon Hamm out of what I suppose is his comfort zone in terms of acting, would certainly be interesting.

Of course in terms of intangible qualities, Hamm has all of those necessary for portraying Gatsby; he’s got charisma and screen presence in abundance. It’s just a matter of him dealing with the material, and he could do definitely do it.


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