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The Great Gatsby director Baz Luhrmann said on Thursday that he believes that the fact that his movie is an Australian production helped it get distribution in China. He also said was blown away by the possibilities that the country has to offer.
“I am seriously considering a Chinese movie, and I’m in meetings while I’m here,” he told a news conference at a downtown Beijing hotel the day after The Great Gatsby had a red-carpet premiere in the Chinese capital. “I take a very long time to decide what films to make, but I’m seriously thinking about a movie set in both China and the West. China is an overwhelmingly exciting place, and I want to participate in what’s happening.”
Quipped the 50-year-old: “I am getting old, and I might only have one more movie left in me.”
The filmmaker also said: “I do believe the fact The Great Gatsby is an Australian film was part of the dialogue about why it might be accepted.”
Australia has a co-production treaty with China, while the U.S. does not. While The Great Gatsby is not a co-production, the fact that it is not counted as a Hollywood film will have given it exceptional status when dealing with the film bureau, which is keen to give valuable quota slots not just to Hollywood movies, but also to foreign films from other countries.
China, the world’s second largest film market, has a quota of 34 foreign movies every year on a revenue-sharing basis.
Given China’s love of 3D remakes of movies — Jurassic Park is currently riding high in China in a 3D version — Luhrmann said he thought that Moulin Rouge would work really well in 3D. He dropped some other strong hints that Fox would consider backing him to convert it to 3D.
There were grumblings of discontent among the assembled reporters after Luhrmann, wearing a dark suit, was an hour late for the press briefing, but he won people over by readily posing for photographs and praising Beijing, its food and the very ballroom in which the event took place.
Luhrmann was inspired to film F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s book by a train journey in China, he also told the Thursday press conference.
“It is absolutely full circle. I was getting the Trans-Siberian Express, and I had a recorded book with me and on the first night, as I went through Manchuria, I put on the recorded book and I realized that I thought I knew this book, but I didn’t, and I began researching the movie of The Great Gatsby,” he explained.
Luhrmann joined Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, and he had 10,000 followers early on. “This morning, I had 250,000 followers,” he said.
“All the air has become crystalline clear and I’ve been able to see how vast and impressive the city is. I’d heard it was a monolithic and powerful city, but this morning I could see this,” Luhrmann also said at the press conference on Thursday.
Australian ambassador Frances Adamson, who attended the gala premiere in Beijing, said she was delighted that Gatsby was an Australian production.
“The director is a son of Australia. We are very proud,” she said at the event, which was also attended by local industry members.
“It’s an Australian film. Can you imagine the trepidation of taking America’s most revered novel and making a personal Australian film. Every single frame was shot in Australia, 90 percent of the visual effects were done in Australia,” said Luhrmann.
“There’s a place called Hollywood that has been taking Russia’s greatest novels, like War and Peace, and making them in America,” he added.
The quality of 3D projection was particularly high for the Beijing premiere, said Luhrmann.
“Chinese people are getting the idea of the book expressed in the film. There is a lot of seduction and decadence, of fantastic jewelry, of jazz, and diamonds and pearls, and flashy yellow Duesenbergs,” said Luhrmann. “I’m not just saying this because I’m in Beijing, but I’ve never seen the film technically projected, both in terms of sound and 3D, as well as I did last night. The technical execution was quite remarkable.”
He spoke at length about Leonardo DiCaprio‘s qualities and how he and his career have developed since Luhrmann first directed him in Romeo & Juliet.
The film will resonate here partially because it features DiCaprio, who is probably the most famous foreign actor in China because of Titanic, which is still one of the most popular foreign movies here. The 3D version last year reached more box office revenue in China than in the U.S.
DiCaprio appeared by video feed, discussing how the movie was a triumph of American literature and winning over the audience by saying thank you in Chinese (“xiexie”).
The assembled press corps could have asked questions about DiCaprio all day.
“Leo was, as a creative partner, as obsessed with the Jay Gatsby character — and I believe Gatsby is the American Hamlet — as Jay Gatsby was obsessed with the green light and his love for Daisy Buchanan,” Luhrmann said.
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