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.