'The Great Gatsby' Cast on the Pressures of Adapting a Literary Classic

Leonardo DiCaprio says that the 1925 F. Scott Fitzgerald novel is "intrinsically woven into the fabric of what America is."

Leonardo DiCaprio is living the American dream.

In director Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, DiCaprio plays Jay Gatsby, the idealistic protagonist of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s literary classic.

The actor describes Fitzgerald’s seminal work as one of “the great American novel of the last century.”

PHOTOS: 'Great Gatsby' Premiere: Leonardo DiCaprio, Jay-Z and Carey Mulligan Hit the Red Carpet

DiCaprio tells The Hollywood Reporter that the timeless book is one of the "most interesting, complex novels” he has ever read and that it is “intrinsically woven into the fabric of what America is.”

So, when Lurhmann decided to adapt the American masterpiece, it stands to reason that the cast felt a little intimidated. 

Set during a Long Island summer in the middle of the Roaring '20s, The Great Gatsby follows the day-to-day lives of Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) and his mysterious neighbor, Gatsby, a self-made millionaire.

Gatsby spends his summer throwing lavish parties and pining after his former lover, Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan).

The actress tells THR that while in school in England she was not required to read the book, but says she nonetheless “felt the weight of responsibility” being a part of the adaption of such a beloved novel.

Actor Joel Edgerton, who plays Daisy’s adulterous husband in the film, also says the book was not a compulsory text in his native Australia, but he hopes that the film will inspire audiences to read Fitzgerald’s masterwork.

STORY: Lana Del Rey's 'Great Gatsby' Track 'Young & Beautiful' Hits the Web

Maguire says he was not fearful of the original text, but rather “excited” to bring the novel’s rich language and dynamic characters to the big screen.

While on a train in Siberia after the completion of his breakthrough film, Moulin Rogue, Lurhmann says he was listening to the novel when he received an epiphany about the story's universality.

The Australian director acknowledges that Gatsby's characters, though inherently American, are universally relatable.

He says, “I realized that you know everyone. You know that place. It’s us, it’s where we are.”

The Great Gatsby has a theatrical release date of May 10.

Jordan Zakarin contributed to this report.