Try as I might, I just can’t get myself to a place where I can buy Tobey Maguire as Nick Carraway. Instead of dealing with reality and just accepting it like a grown-up, I have been endlessly recasting the role. Here are my top 3 choices.
3. Wes Bentley
The thing to remember is that Gatsby is told in Carraway’s voice, so all those amazing lines are coming from him. This means we need to believe that Carraway is smart, observant, aloof, and interested enough to create them. I think Bentley could do this, just off his performance in American Beauty. Come to think of it, his role has a position in the story not unlike Carraway’s.
2. Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Gordon-Levitt gives me everything Bentley does, minus the vaguely creepy factor. Also, JGL is just damn likable, and I think most readers are drawn to Carraway as well. This would also give us a Gatsby/Carraway pairing of child stars who got famous on mediocre sitcoms. (What’s the greatest movie ever featuring former child stars? Comments below, please).
1. Ryan Gosling
Gatsby has to be played by someone with serious wattage; someone you can’t stop watching. The temptation is to have Carraway be the undercard, but I think you should go the other way; make Carraway as interesting and dynamic internally, through voice-over and narration, as Gatsby is externally. From The Notebook to Half-Nelson, Gosling is a great watcher; he looks at things in a way that makes watching him watch things a minor pleasure. This is no easy task, but a necessary one if you are going to play the second most interesting narrator in American literature.
(Now if we could only get a movie in which Russell Crowe plays Ishmael…or maybe it should be Joaquin Phoenix. No wait, wait–Daniel Day-Lewis. Dammit, here I go again. )