A Gatsby Visit

One of the highlights of the summer of 2011 was a visit to the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections on June 28 by Australian movie director Baz Luhrmann and members of his production team. Their visit to Princeton was in connection with production of a new movie version of The Great Gatsby. Don Skemer, curator of manuscripts, showed Luhrmann and the others F. Scott Fitzgerald’s heavily corrected galleys of Trimalchio, an early version of The Great Gatsby. In the photograph below, Luhrmann is in the foreground. The galleys are part of the F. Scott Fitzgerald Papers, which the author’s daughter Scottie Fitzgerald Lanahan donated to the Princeton University Library in 1950. Skemer explained how Fitzgerald’s creative process can be traced in his own papers and related materials preserved in the Manuscripts Division. Particularly revealing is the author’s extensive correspondence with the legendary literary editor Maxwell Perkins at Charles Scribner’s Sons, Fitzgerald’s publisher. After the visit, Luhrmann wrote to Skemer to say, “Having returned from our trip to Princeton, I just wanted to reach out and thank you once again. Seeing those materials and hearing you articulate Fitzgerald’s processes really gave us a second burst of energy.” The British actress Carey Mulligan, who will play Daisy Buchanan in the movie, also visited to view portions of the Fitzgerald Papers and in particular to discuss the author’s relationship with Ginevra King, who served as a model for Daisy, Jay Gatsby’s lost love. Ginevra King’s letters to Fitzgerald and diary are also preserved in the Manuscripts Division. Mulligan, who earned an Oscar nomination for best actress in 2010, told the Huffington Post: “I went to Princeton where they keep all [Fitzgerald’s] papers and I got to look at Zelda Fitzgerald’s medical records and . . . the most amazing stuff.” Filming has begun in Sydney, Australia, with Leonardo DiCaprio playing Jay Gatsby and Tobey Maguire as Nick Caraway. Luhrmann’s new movie of The Great Gatsby is scheduled for a New York premiere in December 2012.

Baz Luhrmann, right, examines F. Scott Fitzgerald's papers. Not to be reproduced without permission of the Princeton University Library.