Baz Luhrmann’s ‘The Great Gatsby’ will open Cannes festival

LOS ANGELES - For its premiere 2013 showcase in the south of France, the Cannes Film Festival is going back to 1920s America.

Organizers at the prestigious film gathering said Monday night that Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby” will open this year’s festival on May 15, lending an air of throwback glamor to a festival never wanting for it.

This will mark the third time in five years that the festival’s opener is a big-budget Hollywood production, after Pixar’s 3-D adventure “Up” in 2009 and Ridley Scott’s “Robin Hood” in 2010. It also will be the second time ever the festival has started with a 3-D film.

The announcement adds another element of Hollywood to this year’s gathering; Steven Spielberg was recently named head of the competition jury.

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, Luhrmann’s take on the Fitzgerald classic appears to offer his trademark pop music and flashy edits in telling its tale of a man with an outside myth. Carey Mulligan co-stars as Daisy Buchanan, and Tobey Maguire is naive protagonist Nick Carraway in the Warner Bros. picture. The film will screen out of competition in keeping with opening-night tradition.

The Cannes opening slot has been an extremely fertile platform the last two years, propelling 2011 opener “Midnight In Paris” and 2012 debut “Moonrise Kingdom” to breakout success. But “Gatsby” could face a wrinkle: At the moment it appears to be dated for a May 15 French release but a May 10 Stateside release, which would mean much of the press about it in the U.S. will have already hit by the time the film rolls up on the Riviera. Poor reviews could especially put a damper on things.

Warner Bros. could move the release back a week to take advantage of the buckets of free publicity - most Cannes opening night films in recent years have come out in the U.S. after the festival premiere. The weekend of the 17th, however, is already occupied by another big studio spectacle, “Star Trek Into Darkness.”

“Gatsby” has already been moved once, out of the December 2012 period to the spring. The move helped the film avoid a crowded holiday calendar and also gave Luhrmann more time to finish its extensive special effects.

Luhrmann has opened Cannes before, kicking off the 2001 festival with a different period piece, the Paris-set jukebox musical “Moulin Rouge.” That movie was also postponed from the previous Christmas, a decision that worked out reasonably well as the film went on to $180 million in global box office and an Academy Award best picture nomination.

Since Luhrmann announced he was tackling “Gatsby” - he said it was timely again due to our own Gilded Age - it has divided film fans, some of whom welcome his fresh take and others of whom say he is tinkering with a classic.

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