Joel Edgerton Takes on a Villain Role in ‘The Great Gatsby’

Australian actor Joel Edgerton (“Zero Dark Thirty,” “Warrior”) stars as Tom Buchanan, Daisy’s (Carey Mulligan) husband, and therefore Jay Gatsby's (Leonardo DiCaprio) rival, in Baz Luhrmann's new big screen adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “The Great Gatsby.”

Joel Edgerton

“Tom is the bad guy, he’s a bully, he’s very destructive and he’s also super rich and entitled,” comments Joel Edgerton on his character. “It’s my job to present that, but it’s also my job to present Tom as a real person and not to judge him.

“I know from reading a lot about Fitzgerald that he kind of hated guys like Tom; he’s a guy who embodies the ultra-wealthy kind of characters of that era, and he is married to a woman who actually had a chance at love with someone who didn’t have that money. Instead, she chose Tom,” marvels Edgerton. “I’m fascinated by that. I understand that there’s a love there, but there’s also something deeper about the culture of money.”

“The Great Gatsby” follows would-be writer Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) as he leaves the Midwest and comes to New York City in the spring of 1922, an era of loosening morals, glittering jazz, bootleg kings, and sky-rocketing stocks. Chasing his own American Dream, Nick lands next door to a mysterious, party-giving millionaire, Jay Gatsby, and across the bay from his cousin, Daisy, and her philandering, blue-blooded husband, Tom Buchanan. It is thus that Nick is drawn into the captivating world of the super rich, their illusions, loves and deceits. As Nick bears witness, within and without of the world he inhabits, he pens a tale of impossible love, incorruptible dreams and high-octane tragedy, and holds a mirror to our own modern times and struggles.

Despite Daisy’s unhappiness, co-star Carey Mulligan points out that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to her relationship with Tom. “Daisy and Tom have such a great dynamic. When they walk into a room, they know they are the most powerful people there because of their wealth and status,” she says. “There is a reason they are together and a reason that they were, at one point, really in love. So, that’s what we had fun playing with. I think it’s really easy to make them an unhappy couple, but they’re not necessarily.”

Luhrmann found the part of Tom difficult to cast. “Honestly, all sorts of actors wanted to play that role, but finding exactly the right quality was really hard,” he says. “Joel is a talented young Aussie guy, and he was coming in to read for Tom Buchanan, but I cannot say that I thought at the time, ‘Well, that’ll be a slam-dunk.’ But from the moment Joel walked in until the moment he left, he was Tom Buchanan.”

Edgerton was so immersed in his character that he continued using his upper-class American accent on set, long after the cameras stopped rolling. Luhrmann recalls, “I forgot what Joel Edgerton—the guy who has the Aussie accent that I know well—sounded like, and I really think it would be very hard to find anyone who won’t see the Tom Buchanan that is on the pages of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s `The Great Gatsby’ in the interpretation that Joel found, because he’s boorish and you love to hate him. But he has his own kind of moral universe. And to that he is faithful. As Nick says, ‘I couldn’t forgive him or like him but I saw that what he had done was, to him, entirely justified.’ It’s both complex and entertaining.”

“Fitzgerald said Tom Buchanan was one of the best characters he ever created,” adds producer Doug Wick. “Joel owns it all. He owns the bigotry, he owns the energy, and he makes him multi-dimensional. He did a brilliant interpretation.”

Opening across the Philippines on May 17 in Digital 3D and regular format, “The Great Gatsby” will be distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

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