Of Heroes and the Great Gatsby
Andy Dufresne: There are places in this world that aren't made out of stone. That there's something inside—that they can't get to, that they can't touch. That's yours. Red: What're you talking about? Andy Dufresne: Hope.
My cousin Ryan looked at me like I hadn’t heard the sky was blue.
“What?!” I asked, with only one other question coming to mind immediately regarding the matter: Who is going to play the title role?
And my heart sank when he told me: Leonardo DiCaprio.
Maybe I just don’t see him as having “one of those smiles.”
Or maybe it’s because the heroes in our lives—both fictional and non—are so personal to us.
And I guess Gatsby, despite his shortcomings, is one of those fictional heroes I just can’t imagine on the screen again (especially considering Robert Redford fit the role so swimingly, even if I never really cared for Lilly).
I think we take characters like Gatsby so seriously because the story of heroes—in books, movies and life—is essentially a story of hope.
Inspiration doesn’t come easy, and sometimes when it does arrive, you’d never expect its source.
Like Gatsby, for instance.
Nick Carraway said of his friend in the Fitzgerald classic: “If personality is an unbroken series of successful gestures, then there was something gorgeous about him, some heightened sensitivity to the promise of life, as if he related to one of those intricate machines that register earthquakes ten thousand miles away—it was an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness such as I have never found in any other person and which it is not likely I shall ever find again."
And maybe that’s it. Maybe once you find your hero—once your hero inspires you—it isn’t likely that you shall ever find him again.
Definitely not in Leonardo DiCaprio (despite his considerable appeal. No offense, Leo).
It’s like asking to cast the movie of your life and having to pick the actor who would best play your hero—your Pap, the uncle who saved you, the friend who never let you not laugh despite whatever tragedy reality could dredge up.
Granted: There might be someone there to play that role, and they might play it just fine.
But our heroes are who they are, and no matter how they are cast later, those actors lack that hopeful luster that makes us stop and simply wonder at how lucky we are to have ever experienced it to begin with.
Because after all, there aren’t many Paps or Uncle Tims or Candys out there.
It’s that inspiration.
Because you can’t play a Muse—or a Gatsby. You have to be one.