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

“C.M. and I, we imagined we were Scott and Zelda,” Mr. Luhrmann said to the room, where Anna Wintour sat with literary heavyweights like Jeffrey Eugenides, Maureen Dowd, Calvin Tomkins, Philip Gourevitch and Téa Obreht. “C.M. went a bit too far with the champagne exploration …”

“Baz, you have a much bigger problem with the bottle than I do!” his wife said.

Everyone reached for his or her wine glass.

Then it was time for a panel discussion with the cast moderated by the biographer Dr. Amanda Foreman, who commenced perhaps history’s most glamorous book club with Ms. Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Mr. Maguire and Isla Fisher.

Not long after the movie-star book club ended, I ran into Mr. Edgerton, who plays Tom Buchanan.

“You read Fitzgerald’s letters, and it’s clear he just wanted so bad to be famous,” the actor said. “He just wanted to get laid and be famous.”

I wondered, aloud, who doesn’t want to get laid and be famous?

Jay-Z.

Jay-Z.

Mr. Edgerton shrugged.

“I haven’t met anyone.”

Mr. Luhrmann then grabbed me and walked me through the grand hallways of the New York Public Library and out the towering front entrance, where a handful of fans stood beside the two lions calling out for the director, asking for autographs.

“Wasn’t The Darby so fun last night, Nate?” Mr. Luhrmann said, walking down the massive steps. “It just felt like the Jazz Age again?”

The director bounced as if fully refreshed. He was the perfect perennial host for The Great Gatsby. On the street, a car was waiting for him. It would take him to a television interview. Before he ducked in, he went for a double-pump handshake.

“I’ll see you Sunday at the Boom Boom Room,” he said. “Another party!”

 

I arrived early on Sunday night only to find the space empty, devoid of famous faces. Through the Boom Boom Room’s floor-to-ceiling windows was a glittering panorama: the Empire State Building to the north, and to the south the Hudson River snaking down to lower Manhattan and the unfinished Freedom Tower.

Then things picked up. As the cast took their time to arrive from the screening at the Museum of Modern Art, Katy Perry showed up wearing a colorful outfit she claimed was inspired by Frida Kahlo. (Ms. Perry had been at the Prada event, too.)

“It’s very of Gatsby, it’s very befitting,” she told me, speaking about the run of parties.

Ms. Perry later joined Mr. DiCaprio, Ms. Mulligan, Cuba Gooding Jr. and others in a back section of the Top of the Standard, surrounded by bodyguards. I walked in and saw Baz Luhrmann, who pulled me over to his booth. The director began talking about The Great Gatsby in an intelligent way. I smiled. It was a conversation I had been searching for amid the two weeks of glad-handing, petty arguments, studio politics and celebrity publicists. Mr. Luhrmann talked with stunning earnestness about how The Great Gatsby is the American Hamlet, about how Hamlet is the Bible, about how the New Testament is the first cinematic document, and about how, in the Gospels, Jesus Christ dies at 33, much like the protagonist of his newest film.

What more could I ask of this director, after all of these events at posh places in New York City devoted to his movie, all of them masterminded on some level by Mr. Luhrmann himself, the ringleader, the puppeteer—the boy from Australia who changed his name and became famous?

It’s like you’re Gatsby yourself, I said.

“I’m not Jay Gatsby,” he said. Then he pointed to a man a booth over, a man at the center of this golden top-floor canopy above New York City, sitting with Dasha Zhukova—the partner of Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich—the actress Kristen Wiig and No Doubt singer Gwen Stefani. He was pointing at Leonardo DiCaprio.

“I’m not Jay Gatsby,” Mr. Luhrmann said. “He is.”