Baz Luhrmann populated his blockbuster adaptation of "The Great Gatsby" with some of the biggest stars in the world, but it's newcomer Elizabeth Debicki who almost steals the entire film from the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio, Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire. Debicki portrays Jordan Baker in "Gatsby," a professional golfer and essential element of the social circle at the film's core.
"Can we all agree that the breakout star of the film was Aussie newcomer Elizabeth Debicki as the droll Jordan Baker?" asked Vulture in a recent post on "Gatsby." "She's got the gangly limbs, close-cropped dark hair, and sloe eyes of Rooney Mara, but in a much more fun package. Why is she not signed up for a thousand new Hollywood movies immediately?"
Perhaps that will happen soon enough, not that Debicki is counting on anything. "I don't know what to expect," Debicki told HuffPost Entertainment from her hotel in Australia last week. "For me, that's the best thing about being an actor; when you're on the edge of something and you're not quite sure what it is. It's a motion that's going under you and it's exciting."
The 22-year-old actress had only one prior credit to her name before winning the role of Jordan in Luhrmann's new film: an Australian comedy called "A Fest Best Men." Before "Gatsby," she had never even been to Los Angeles.
"I flew to L.A. for about 48 hours, met Baz, did an audition with Tobey at the Chateau Marmont and then I went home," Debicki said about her audition process. "A month later, Baz called me up and said, 'Would you like to be in our little show?' Very Baz."
Luhrmann's "little show" has become a surprise box-office sensation since its release; the film has earned $54 million so far in ticket sales, a success that Debicki herself seems to have predicted.
"I was in a cafe in Sydney and I remember picking up a paper that had Carey's face on the cover," Debicki recalled about her pre-"Gatsby" life. "It was the first time I heard Baz was making 'Gatsby' and I thought it was a brilliant idea."
Luhrmann spent three years preparing for "The Great Gatsby," even convincing Warner Bros. to allow him to shoot the film in 3D. That enhancement, Luhrmann explained to HuffPost, was done to give an even greater depth to the film's performances.
"The noise, the razzle-dazzle, it's in the book," Luhrmann said of the early scenes of decadence and excess in the film. "But [the whole novel] strips down to five people in a room going, 'You loved him? But I thought you loved me.' It's absolutely pure, simple five-handed drama. And I thought, seeing actors at top click in 3D, just acting, what would that be like?"
That scene, which takes place at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, brings Jordan, Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio), Daisy Buchanan (Mulligan), her husband Tom (Joel Edgerton) and Nick Carraway (Maguire) together for a moment that forever alters the story's key relationships. DiCaprio and Edgerton, in particular, crackle as their characters almost come to blows, something Debicki knows all too well.
"Jordan has one line in that scene and I forgot it about eight times because I was completely enthralled," she laughed. "There would be these awful silences and I would think, 'What's going to happen next? Who's going to say something?' Then I'd realize it was my line."
For now, those hungering to see more of Debicki on screen will have to wait a little bit longer. The actress is at the Cannes Film Festival in France this week to support "The Great Gatsby," and stars on stage in Sydney with Cate Blanchett and Isabelle Huppert in a production of "The Maids." The play runs through the end of July.
"I still pinch myself," Debicki said of her experience on "Gatsby." "There's times in your life where you think, 'I have nothing to lose, so I'm going to completely do this thing and just enjoy it.' Which is probably the essence of Jordan in a funny way."