One detail I didn’t have room to include in last weekend’s Arts & Books feature on the soundtrack to “The Great Gatsby” was just how the film’s director, Baz Luhrmann, recruited Jay-Z to help him assemble the music for the movie.
In an interview Luhrmann said he hadn’t met the rapper before “Gatsby” star Leonardo DiCaprio offered to introduce the two men one night in New York, where Luhrmann and DiCaprio were doing early work on the film and Jay-Z was in the process of recording “Watch the Throne,” his 2011 collaborative album with Kanye West.
“Leo said, ‘Hey, Jay’s up at the Mercer [Hotel] -- let’s go see him,’” Luhrmann remembered. “So we get there, and he’s in a small suite with a producer, a recording deck about the size of a coffee table and a microphone with one of those vocal guards on it. He says, ‘Gimme a second,’ and then he does the line about ‘lies on the lips of a priest’ from ‘No Church in the Wild.’”
Lurhmann said he and DiCaprio spent the rest of the evening at the Mercer, with Jay-Z playing them other songs from “Watch the Throne.” “And eventually we start talking about the movie,” the director continued. “I told him I wanted the audience to experience ‘Gatsby’ not nostalgically but more in the moment. And just as I was about to say, ‘I wonder if you’d be interested...,’ he said, ‘We’ve got to do it.’ It’s been a true partnership ever since.”
Now that partnership is set to pay impressive dividends: Billboard reported early Saturday that the “Gatsby” soundtrack -- with new music by Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Andre 3000 and Lana Del Rey and others -- is on track to debut at No. 2 on next week’s album chart with estimated sales of approximately 100,000 copies.
“Golden,” the latest from the country trio Lady Antebellum, is expected to take the top spot, though “Gatsby” was at No. 1 on iTunes on Saturday afternoon. The strong commercial showing matches that of the movie itself, which despite decidedly mixed reviews, is performing well so far at the box office.
Follow Mikael Wood on Twitter: @mikaelwood