You wear a suit. But you don’t wear the suit to a party.
The movie The Great Gatsby is set in early 1920s New York City in a fictionalized version of Gatsby’s life. The movie also features a large number of black characters. In a 2006 interview with the NY Post, director Baz Luhrmann said: ‘If I were black, we would cast me in whatever role we wanted.’
The only character that Luhrmann did not choose to cast black was the rich, handsome James Coburn, played by Matthew Broderick. Broderick, who, in addition to his role in The Great Gatsby, is also known for his role in the 2004 horror film I Saw the Devil, was considered the only black actor in the lead role. [NY Post]
The only roles that were offered to black actors were those of the ‘hippie’ characters. In one scene, a character is seen on the subway with a bag of oranges on his head. He says: ‘It has to be oranges, that’s the only color I wear around here.’
Black actors have appeared on screen in the film including Daniel Kaluuya, who later starred in the movie The Twilight Saga: New Moon as the vampire Spike. He later appeared in another vampire film as well.
When the film was released, the New York Times was quick to call out Luhrmann for the diversity in the casting choices made by studio executives, saying: ‘The failure of Great Gatsby was not merely because of what movies are in need of, but also because of the choice of what kind of people should be doing the making of them.’
The only people who complained about diversity in American film were white males.
The Washington Post also criticised Luhrmann for using actors from the black community as the only characters of colour in the film, writing: ‘If we’re to ask this question of black people in Great Gatsby, the answer is simply “no.” ‘
The black characters in Great Gatsby were either not named, or simply appeared in dialogue as black people.
Although the movie made $200m, Luhrmann never made any money from it, instead he had to pay $100,000 to buy all the used car tires on which the movie was filmed.
So, if you want to see a movie about the life of