Gatsby Takes Manhattan: Leo, Jay-Z and Baz Turn NYC into a Two-Week Pop-Up

After a few coupes of Moët champagne I spotted Mr. Luhrmann, looking dapper enough to have stepped off his own movie’s set. We chatted about my friend from college, and then I asked about this impressive run of Gatsby-esque parties.

“A little partying never killed anyone—or, well, maybe it did,” he said, referring to (spoiler alert!) Gatsby’s death at the end of the movie. “Immediately, the parties and the glamour is what’s attractive. But when we find out that Gatsby’s doing that for a different reason, it’s why the book is so enduring. You’re attracted to it, you’re seduced by it, but then you find yourself going on this human journey.”

This human’s journey took him next to a screening at Warner Bros. headquarters, one of a few screenings set up for those who could score seats. The film is massive, a sensory overload, a wildly kaleidoscopic spectacle that somehow manages to stay relatively faithful to the Great American Novel, all building to that monumental party scene, set to “Rhapsody in Blue.”

After the credits rolled, I raced downtown to the party at the Prada flagship.

The official premiere, the following night, engulfed the whole of Lincoln Center’s grand arcade. An army of photographers and journalists jockeyed for snaps and quotes. Attendees in black tie downed cocktails on the balcony overhead, laughing and waving to people who couldn’t see them, as a giant banner for Samsung, one of the movie’s (many) sponsors, hung below, visible to the masses. And finally the stars, each one positively gleaming, showed their famous faces.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Baz Luhrmann and Carey Mulligan.

Leonardo DiCaprio, Baz Luhrmann and Carey Mulligan.

I caught Mr. DiCaprio as he was about to go in and watch himself enthrall the audience.

“What I loved about Jay Gatsby was this idea of this iconic American dreamer,” Mr. DiCaprio told me, his eyes wandering up to the sky. “We all can identify with the American dreamer—the man coming from nothing and manifesting his own destiny.”

With no entrée into the party at the Plaza Hotel, I passed the time with cocktails at the Whitney Museum’s annual Art Party, sifting through crowds of young strivers who had purchased tickets and budding socialites with enough connections to land a spot on the host committee. It was the next generation of upper-crust New York grabbing cocktail after cocktail.

“Darby if you can swing it,” came the text message from my college friend, and I hopped in a cab that zoomed between the monolithic towers of Midtown and down into the West Village. The feverish party rang out for hours. I drank scotch from Mr. DiCaprio’s table. I dipped a girl low dancing to Roaring Twenties jazz.

Somehow, the cast (sans Mr. DiCaprio, who had hit 1OAK following The Darby) made it to a lunch the next morning at the New York Public Library, looking fresh as ever. Event host David Remnick was nice enough to take a break from editing The New Yorker to chat with Mr. Luhrmann about the research that he and his wife, Gatsby costume designer Catherine Martin, had done into the inner workings of Fitzgerald’s soul.