The sets in Baz Luhrmann’s new movie version of The Great Gatsby dazzled me.
Jay Gatsby’s mansion was suitably castle-like. Daisy Buchanan’s red-brick Georgian had the classic look of old money. And Nick Carraway’s cottage was small but so charming I wanted to move into it myself.
Let’s take a closer look at all three…
Daisy’s House in “The Great Gatsby”
F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic Jazz Age novel was set on the Gold Coast of Long Island.
Tom and Daisy Buchanan live in the (fictional) East Egg, known for its “old money” estates.
An article in Architectural Digest written by Brad Goldfarb says, “Luhrmann may take liberties with musical conventions in Gatsby, but he and his wife, designer Catherine Martin, strove for greater period authenticity—a dazzling version, to be sure—in the lavish sets.”
Tom Buchanan and Daisy’s cousin Nick went to Yale together. He shows Nick his “hall of fame:”
When Nick enters Daisy’s sitting room, the French doors
are standing open and the curtains are billowing:
Catherine Martin has been in charge of production and costume design for most of Luhrmann’s movies and won two Oscars for her work on Moulin Rouge.
British actress Carey Mulligan played Daisy Buchanan.
Doctor Who fans probably remember her as Sally Sparrow from the creepy “Blink” episode. I think of it every time I see her!
Electric fans are seen around the house to combat the (pre-AC) summer heat:
Daisy’s Dining Room:
“The luxurious Hollywood Regency– and Deco-inflected furnishings in the sitting room, the contemporary art, and the formal gardens are all intended, Martin says, ‘to contrast Daisy with the new-money fantasist that is Gatsby.’” —AD.
Daisy’s house was inspired by Old Westbury Gardens on Long Island.
The exterior was built on a soundstage, with “enhancements added digitally.”
Nick’s Cottage in West Egg
Nick rented “a forgotten groundskeeper’s cottage squeezed among the mansions of the newly rich” on Long Island’s West Egg for $80 a month.
It sits in the shadow of Gatsby’s “colossal castle,” as Nick calls it.
Gatsby’s servants deliver a truckload of flowers in anticipation of Daisy’s arrival:
In an interview, Tobey Maguire (Nick) said, “Baz and his team built this spectacular world that brings you back to a version of the 1920s — one that also kind of contemporizes it. It’s the ’20s as the characters might have experienced them.”
He continued: “Visually, it’s absolutely amazing. There was certainly a kind of grandeur and beauty on the set that was appropriate for the story. There were also elements that were not physically built out but were added through animation. Watching it all come together has been really cool.”
I saw a segment on an entertainment show that aired while they were still working on the film that showed the actors working in front of a lot of green screens. It’s amazing to see how they filled in so much of the sets afterward.
There’s a fascinating video that shows the scenes with green screen and then how they looked with the CGI. You can watch it here.
Because so much of it was digitally animated, it gives the movie a dream-like quality and resembles a lot of the classic old movies where they often used paintings of houses instead of the real thing.
AD says, “Stickley-esque furniture, quartersawn oak beams, and moss-green tiles conjure an Arts and Crafts vibe inside. ‘It was all about finding what we thought were quintessential Long Island motifs,’ explains Martin. And materials that reflect Nick’s innocent nature.”
The kitchen is tiny:
Daisy and Gatsby on the side porch, looking toward his mansion next door:
Jay Gatsby’s “Colossal Castle” in West Egg
Gatsby’s house was inspired by places like Oheka Castle, La Selva, and Beacon Towers:
“Looking at images of Beacon Towers, there’s something that gives it the feel of the Disneyland castle, and Baz referenced that—the idea that Gatsby was building a fantasy,” Martin told AD.
No expense was spared. Gatsby tells Daisy, “I had these gates brought in from a castle in Normandy.”
When Nick and Jordan explore the mansion in search of Gatsby, they meet an old man in the library who says, “You won’t find him. This house and everything in it are part of an elaborate disguise.”
Like the library, the master suite is two-stories tall:
Catherine Martin oversaw the creation of 42 different sets in Sydney.
Some were on location and others were built on soundstages.
AD reports: “It took her team 14 weeks just to build, paint, and decorate Gatsby’s mansion, which called for a grand ballroom, library, master bedroom, entrance hall, and terrace, as well as a garden.”
He not only has his own Wurlitzer pipe organ,
but an in-house musician to play it for him:
Martin told Vanity Fair, “You get this sense of excess — of someone overreaching. This is conveyed in the Neo-Gothic style of Gatsby’s house and the almost Versailles-sized fountain in the front.”
A Vanity Fair article reports: “During an extensive location scout of houses in Long Island, Martin says, she, Luhrmann, and their crew stumbled upon their inspiration for the pool at Eagle’s Nest, a Spanish Revival–style mansion that William K. Vanderbilt II began building in 1910.”
For the exterior shots of Gatsby’s estate, Architectural Digest reports that the Gothic Revival building that used to be St. Patrick’s Seminary in Sydney was used. They hung faux ivy on the first two floors and installed a temporary fountain in the courtyard.
Soaring turrets were digitally added in post-production so it looks, as Catherine Martin puts it, “like he lives in an adult Disney World.”
I took most of these screenshots, but official set photos were by Daniel Smith for Warner Bros.
Read the article in Architectural Digest for more photos and information.
I’ll take the groundskeeper’s cottage. The one with the awesome kitchen sink. They can keep their mansions.
Henry Drake says
My Dream home! I love the film and the house!
Haven’t seen the movie (though I re-read the book before it came out), but I’ll have to watch it for the sets alone. Wow! The houses are grander than I imagined – Gatsby’s is almost like Biltmore House – but I’ll take Nick’s gardener’s cottage any day.
P.S. Fourteen weeks doesn’t sound long to me to build those elaborate sets! Most of us would love to have builders and craftsmen who could work that skillfully and quickly with that amount of detail – even if it is just for show.
I know, right? Impressive!
Oh thank-you for this post! I was searching all over for interior shots of that red apartment and found only a couple. I want that red apartment.
I just loved the way they used color in that apartment!
House Crazy Sarah says
All three are stunning in their own way! I have not seen the movie yet, but what fun it must have been for the set crew! The book by F.Scott Fitzgerald was such a masterpiece of imagery – it’s nice that someone brought it to life on film in modern times.
Wow. That looks quite different from the Robert Redford/Mia Farrow version. Baz Luhrmann is a bit over the top for me, but it was fun to look at the sets without having to listen to the pounding beat of his soundtracks – thank you! I loved seeing the kitchen in the cottage. It looks just like the one that was in my grandmother’s house – the same size too. She put out some yummy meals from that little space, though.
Alie B says
I liked the movie. Leo and Toby were good in their roles. I do hope, at some point, they re-release it with another, more appropriate soundtrack. I disliked the mansions but I loved Toby’s cottage. The scene where Leo brought the groundspeople in and filled the cottage with flowers was sweet.
Absolutely DREAMY. I haven’t watched the movie. Not sure I like the idea of Leo as Gastby. Robert Redford was perfect.
Imre Zat says
O.M.G!!! Such a great post, Julia! Amazing houses!!!
I’d take the cozy groundskeeper’s cottage as well. I live on Long Island, not too far from Oheka Castle and Westbury Gardens, both of which I’ve visited. Beautiful places.
I still wish $80/month would get you a Long Island beachfront cottage.
Me, too! Can you imagine??
In today’s money it would be roughly $1,061. I don’t think that’s too bad considering the location.
Yeah, I’ll take it! 🙂
I have not seen this movie, but the sets are spectacular. They really went all out when they made this movie.
My favorite place is the cottage. I love all of the craftsman details. I also love the library in the castle. It’s my dream to have a two story one someday.
Thanks again for sending me the link to that video, Kim. I added it to my post. Fascinating to see how scenes looked when they were filming them in front of green screens!
You’re Welcome! It really is fascinating and it makes you appreciate all the time and effort that goes into making special effects
cecile delouvrier says
you picked THE movie of the year; wonderful directing, amazing performances, brilliant artistic view, fantastic crazy ideas, fantabulous dresses and sets… Catherine Martin is such a marvellous artist without who Baz Lurhman’s movies wouldn’t be the same!!!!
I don’t know if this spoils the beauty of the sets or makes them even more inspiring.
The VFX producer released a before and after video and it blew my mind.
It’s really cool to see how those scenes were transformed with CGI.
I NEVER realized that was Carey Mulligan in that episode! Maybe I’m used to her with short hair. I’m blown away.
Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com says
I loved it all. Especially the cottage. SO pretty.
And that scene with the billowing curtains got me. Gorgeous.
Fantastic Post! Thanks for sharing this.
I didn’t see the movie but now I’m going to do just that. And I knew I’d seen the actress portraying Daisy before. Now I also have to go back and review one of my favorite Doctor Who episodes.
Beth A says
oh thank you SO much for the pictures of the cottage — it is absolutely my dream house — the place where I will mentally put myself the next time I have trouble sleeping. Thank you thank you thank you,
St Patrick’s Seminary is in the Sydney suburb of Manly, which borders the beach and the harbour
It is also where Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban were married
The Country Girl says
The movies were typical Baz Luhrmann….why make a subtle point when you can overstate, over-decorate and overwhelm….. It was almost painful. The CGI enhanced sets appeared fake on the screen; in fact it was so obvious I wonder if it was deliberate. The Buchanan house and lifestylebwas in no way representational of “old money” in that time period, but again, perhaps the point was that it was all a sham?
Love this post – thanks as always! I think that Country Girl got it right in her last comment – I adore Baz Lurhman movies as so visually rich and fantastical, but sometimes feel the visual feasts can lack a little depth, but having seen this movie I felt that lack of depth turned out to be PERFECT for Fitzgerald’s tale of shallow excess. I loved the movie 🙂
Any idea where I can get a set of the sailboat tiles behind the clock from Nick’s cottage? They are completely beautiful and I’d love to find a perfect place for them in my home.
Really ridiculously over scaled and over blown.
It is no more realistic than the Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz.
The look of the Robert Redford/Mia Farrow film was at least believable.