Baz Luhrmann spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the music for the film. Below is an excerpt.
THR: How did you come to work with the Bryan Ferry Orchestra on the movie and this jazz album?
Luhrmann: It was unbelievably serendipitous. In a million years, I would never have thought Bryan Ferry would have had this jazz orchestra. We thought we’d get our band in New Orleans or something. Jay and I did the first album with Anton, but the whole idea was to weave that with traditional jazz. So I just sent him a note, saying: “Bryan: Baz. How about it?” He doesn’t sing on [the Bryan Ferry Orchestra album, The Jazz Age], but as we progressed on the film, I said, “Bryan, you’ve got to sing.” He was like, “Oh, I don’t know …” Next thing, he did vocals for “Back to Black” and “Love is the Drug.”
THR: “Love is the Drug” takes on a totally new meaning when you think of it in terms of Gatsby’s obsession with Daisy.
Luhrmann: For Gatsby, love is the drug. Not only that, he’s addicted so badly, he’s heading towards tragedy. If love is the drug, he is the drug addict.
THR: Ferry’s vocals on “Back To Black” sound like a funeral procession. How did that version come about?
Luhrmann: It was Jay-Z’s idea. He’d heard an interpretation that was very not like Amy’s. It was this really heavy beginning: “bump, bump, bump, bump …” Bryan copied that construct. He sings it like this ghostly, older vocal. It’s like the ghost of the tragic soul of the Twenties singing. The first part of the film is seductive, decadent, crazy — it’s sexy, it’s fun. “Back to Black” plays in the beginning of [a] scene where it’s starting to transition from all of the razzamatazz to the tragedy of it. We needed a piece of music that would totally change the movie at that point.
THR: The pop/hip-hop, jazz and score albums are all being released separately, but in the movie all three are layered on top of one another. Ever think about releasing that version?
Luhrmann: I’d love to do a concept album at the end, where I do what I did in the film. That’s what I want for the Blu-ray: a version without dialogue of the movie, so that the weave is just constant. Now, it’s very complicated because of the deals: There are so many musicians involved. But I’m in a place these days where I can get that sort of thing done.
THR: And you have to expect that sort of thing when you sign on to be a part of a Baz Luhrmann picture, right? You do things differently.
Luhrmann: When I went and saw Jay two years ago, I said, “Look, we’re going to do things that no one’s ever done.” That’s the attraction: We’re doing in cinema musically what they can’t do in their particular environment. If Fitzgerald lived in the jazz age, we live in the hip-hop age, and he’s the chairman of the board. But to use hip-hop to tell a story? That’s a whole other discipline, a whole other adventure.