Beyond Bollywood: star goes global alongside DiCaprio in 3D Gatsby


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The Independent Culture

Over the course of more than four decades, India’s biggest movie star, Amitabh Bachchan, has performed in around 150 Bollywood movies and featured as everything from hero to villain. But despite his prominence within Indian cinema, at no time did an international project come knocking; as recently as this summer, the 68-year wistfully told an online forum: “No one has made an offer, but I am happy working here in India.”

But that is all set to change. This week it was confirmed that the so-called Big B has been signed up to perform alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Tobey Maguire in a new, 3-D adaptation of the F Scott Fitzgerald novel, The Great Gatsby. Members of the cast have already arrived in Australia where filming is set to begin, under the direction of Baz Luhrmann.

“I am personally thrilled that one of the world’s great screen legends, Amitabh Bachchan, is joining the cast. Over the years, Amitabh’s films have made a tremendous impression on my life and work,” Luhrmann told the Indo-Asian News Service. “I was lucky enough to meet Amitabh at his home in Mumbai last year when I was doing a charity art project…We spoke at that time of working together and finding a project in the very near future.”

The Indian veteran is to play the role of Meyer Wolfsheim, a figure from the world of organised crime who helps millionaire Jay Gatsby make his money. In the 1925 novel, which has been filmed a number of times, most recently with Robert Redford and Mia Farrow in the lead roles, Wolfsheim is described as a man who fixed the 1919 baseball World Series.

Mr Luhrmann added: “With the pivotal role of Wolfsheim, we have found the collaboration. I couldn't be happier. I know that Amitabh is doing this from the point of the quality of Fitzgerald’s text, the tremendous cast, and, most importantly, as a gesture of good will and friendship. I’m honoured to have him on board.”Warner Brothers said in a statement that in his version of Fitzgerald’s melancholic elegy to the roaring Jazz Age, Luhrmann will “create his own distinctive visual interpretation of the classic story, bringing the period to life in a way that has never been seen before”.

Bachchan was in Australia last month. However, according to the Agence France-Presse, his entries on his blog, which he regularly updates, did not let slip the secret of his forthcoming role. In one cryptic entry on August 29 he wrote about returning to India and mused: “Time has been spent well and hopefully judiciously. Days ahead will tell us whether it was fruitful or not.”

Yesterday, the actor who has starred in popular Hindi-language films such as Sholay and Deewaar, was unusually silent.

While DiCaprio will play the lead role in the £90m movie, with British actress Carey Mulligan as his lover, Daisy Buchanan, Maguire will feature as Nick Carraway, the would-be writer from American mid-west and the novel’s narrator, who moves to New York and is beguiled by Gatsby and his circle. Industry reports suggest the film will be released early next year. Joel Edgerton and Isla Fisher are also said to be among the cast.

In a statement, Luhrmann, whose previous credits include Strictly Ballroom and Romeo and Juliet, added: “Fitzgerald loved the movies and was a passionate believer in the power of cinema. The Great Gatsby has been adapted for the screen no less than four times. Fitzgerald’s story defies time and geography. The vision and the goal of our remarkable cast and creatives is to do justice to the deftness of Fitzgerald’s telling, and illuminate its big ideas and humanity. This is our challenge and our adventure.”