The Great Gatsby: Backstage With Brendan Maclean

Brendan Maclean, who you may remember as Pedestrian’s favourite everyman and winner of the King Of Tweet category in our inaugural Blogster awards is currently having the experience of a lifetime starring in The Great Gatsby alongside Leo, Carey and all our other drinking buddies. We tracked down the singer-songwriter/radio presenter/actor/columnist to get the skinny on what’s really happening over at Fox Studios:

Morning Brendan! So, how long do you think there is left of shooting for the film?

Well definitely until Christmas, but signs are pointing to a little longer. I think it’s standard for a Baz Luhrman film.
He gets ideas on the run, and when the moment strikes him there is no stopping it. Great for actors, it lets us really explore the moment, perhaps not so much for crew. They are on mains at the moment, but it’s pick-ups galore come December…

For those of us who aren’t film-savvy, can you explain the difference between mains and pick-ups?

The main shots, which is what we started with, are those fabulous party scenes, the big external locations (that we all saw in the paper), the exciting stuff. Pick-ups come at the end, after the directorial team have watched a general slapping together of the film.

So a pick-up might be them building a tiny part of the set so you’re character can walk out of the room. Transitions, visual angles, even simple stuff like where you look can be really tough without knowing the geography of the whole film. So they smack that on the end.

I did one with the 2nd Unit the other day. The 2nd Unit is another team which can film easier scenes that don’t require Baz to be directing. I stood up from my organ and walked out of the room [over and over] for about two hours.

That sounds like fun…
It was a hoot. Especially considering the scene was “silent” but because you’re on 2nd Unit you get put next to a scene where hundreds of extras are yelling at fireworks. But you know, that’s where my Logie award-deserving acting chops come in.

So are these shoot days really long?
They can be – my last couple days of filming were 7am until midnight. One of the Assistant Directors told me early on, “Brendan, you’re not getting paid to act, you’re getting paid to wait.” It can be mind numbing waiting to do your 30 second scene, sometimes you wait whole days just to go home without doing a thing. But after a while you get to know the other actors and that really helps.

Because you’re all killing time?
Exactly. The crew play footy every day and we all started sharing DVDs. I know ‘waiting’ seems like a stupid thing to complain about – but it really is the hardest part. We’re all actors, all we want to do is play on set. At first you’re like “OMG I GET A TRAILER” and now I don’t want to go anywhere near it. I get cabin fever.

Tell me you’ve taught Tobey [Maguire] how to play footy. Wait, you don’t play footy? Or did I miss the memo on you liking sport?
Ha, I just watch them play. Joel [Edgerton] is the sports buff – after lunch every day he comes back to set sweating with his make-up melting off his face.

So the bit I’m really curious about is these constructed sets. Is Baz really hands on with all of that?
He is, but when it comes to creating visuals it’s Catherine, his wife, who we all saw checking every last detail. I’d be surprised if she hadn’t personally touched ever item of costume and set. You see them drive away from the set after these long days, everyone else is dragging their feet on the ground and there are Baz and Catherine, papers flying in the air, assistants and designers all madly trying to keep up.

It seems strange that people ask about Leo and Carey. It almost seems like they should be more interested in Baz and Cath…
Oh I suppose, but you know, a headline is a headline. Everytime you talk Leo it ends up in a forum or a trash mag – so I guess it’s what people reach for.

So how does the 3D work? Or is it all post-production?
Oh, well it’s filmed for 3D, with a 3D camera set up. You see it straight away on playback. I was a sceptic about it when we started, but Baz is using it in a way that really wraps you up in each scene. It feels like the opposite of what you expect 3D to do. When you hear ‘3D movie’ I think the image is explosions bursting rubble out of the screen or people pointing out of the crowd saying “look over there.” But having watched it, you feel like there is no edge to the shot, it envelopes you from all angles. So, I’m not so much of a sceptic now.

I think Joel said it right, it’s about immersing yourself in the colour, the costume, the feel of the world, not playing “tricks”. It wasn’t the shots that got me, the cameras have a memo on the side of them that say “Why are we doing this in 3D?”

That’s awesome.
The answer very wisely compares the criticism to sound in film, or to colour film. With all those elements I think people got it wrong first – and I don’t think we’ve seen many 3D films get it right, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it.

Right. So I have this theory that Australia is one of the worst paparazzi countries on Earth, just judging by the sheer madness we’ve seen happening since filming started. Can you shed a little light on that?
Perhaps we are not the worst, but Australian media is very hypocritical. We like to think we’re the land of the casual celebrity, that we give stars their own space.

But then they find all these ways to justify hiding in people’s gardens, waiting outside hotel lobbies or creating road blocks. And when the big names do ask for a little privacy runs articles on how “LEO HATES AUSTRALIA”. They start to build these narratives of what’s going on – it’s madness.

For me I hate baseball caps. If I ever had to get to the point where I have to wear one I swear I would retire from whatever it is that made me famous…
Yeah – but hey it works. Once I was on set with Leo, I didn’t even notice he was there until he de-baseball capped.

I’m such an attention whore, though. Once iOTA and I stole a golf buggy just so we could ride around and look for paps. They all hide in these hotels around Fox [Studios] with telescopic lenses. It’s great fun. I think we’ll moon them on the last day. See if they’ll print that on

Follow King Brendan’s descent into madness over at his Twitter page.