Toby Maguire is the Nick We Need, Not the Nick We Want

The Great Gatsby‘s first trailer came out this week, and while people are rightfully disappointed and dismayed by a lot of the elements they saw in those brief two minutes, the casting of Toby Maguire as narrator Nick Carraway shouldn’t be one of them.

The general consensus seems to be that Joseph Gordon-Levitt would have been the perfect Nick, by which I think they mean that he would have been handsomer and more charismatic. The problem with Gordon-Levitt is that he’s a trendy nerd, whereas Maguire is much more capable of coming across as the kid no one sat with at lunch.

Nick isn’t meant to be particularly likeable. He’s our narrator, and even arguably our protagonist, but ultimately Nick is lucky to be at the party — and he knows it. He has money, he has privilege, he has connections, but he doesn’t have much else. It’s Nick’s slavish adoration of Gatsby that causes him to overlook the chinks in Gatsby’s armor until it’s too late, and someone like that can’t read as anything other than a little too eager and a little too desperate. Gatsby has the charm and the style that Nick that can’t buy or develop. For that reason, if you’re going to cast Leonardo DiCaprio at Gatsby, you have to cast Toby Maguire as his foil.

4 thoughts on “Toby Maguire is the Nick We Need, Not the Nick We Want

  1. Pingback: 5 Actors I’d Rather See As Dream Than Joseph Gordon-Levitt | Tea Leaves and Dog Ears

  2. I’ve spent a lot of time explaining to people why Maguire should be perfectly adequate as Nick (but not as much explaining why Carey Mulligan is an awful, awful choice for Daisy), and I share several of your points here. We’re not supposed to like Nick, least of all think he’s cool.
    I disagree that he slavishly admires Gatsby, though. Nick is taken with Gatsby’s charisma at points, but he’s actually pretty critical of his Daisy endeavor (critical of everybody, really) and bothered by his criminal associations. When Nick finally tells him, “You’re worth the whole damn bunch put together,” near the end, it’s a bonafide turn.
    No one’s ever going to make a Gatsby movie that you or I would want, is the thing. I’ll still see it just for the three or four things it gets right in my mind.

    • Oof, I love Mulligan but she was hideously miscast in this. A lot of people are whining about the haircolor, but that’s small potatoes compared to everything else. She’s just too sympathetic. You really need to think Daisy is a complete vapid waste of space by the end of this. Even when Mulligan played the junkie sister in Shame, you still felt for her.

      The slavish adoration of Gatsby was a bit of a leap on my part, but I do think that Nick has almost a paternalistic (or, more accurately, a fraternalistic) love for Gatsby. What you’re talking about above strikes me as someone who respects Gatsby too much to see him “go down this path.”

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