DiCaprio Says He Was 'Reluctant' to Tackle 'Gatsby'

"The Great Gatsby" actor discusses taking on one of the most iconic characters in U.S. literature.
5:06 | 05/08/13

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Transcript for DiCaprio Says He Was 'Reluctant' to Tackle 'Gatsby'
we have been mesmerized by "the great gatsby" and this morning the man center of IT ALL, leonardo DiCaprio, one of the most icon ic characters in american literature jay gatsby. I've gotten all these things, I've gotten all these things for her. Now she just wants to run away. She wants to leave that. Jay, you can't repeat the past. You can't repeat the past? No. Well, of course, you can. Of course, you can. And with that we welcome back leonardo DiCaprio. Thanks for coming back. Thank you. Thank you. Do you believe that? Of course, you can? Well, I think what people identify with jay gatsby is he's the iconic american dreamer and he's holding on to a relic of the past that is daisyhanan she's a mirage and no longer exists but that's what I became fascinated by in portraying him was his obsession, his obsession and his relentless hope that he could re-create the past but, of course, he couldn't. We were just talking about the fact you -- like all of us read this in junior high school, high school and baz luhrmann give you a first edition before you took on the role and you read it again and again and again and when you go back to it as an adult, what did you get from the story? Well, you know, I read it in junior high school and it made sense to me and it was in my mind sort of traditional love story at the time period and it was representative of the ROARING '20s AND I KIND OF Tapped into gatsby's obsession, but baz handed me a first edition copy and said I want to rediscover this novel and I want to put it up on film and I want you to reread it and ras an adult that's what's so incredibly powerful about this novel. It takes on a different meaning. You know, as you mature and age, you start to understand the symbolism. It's really an existential novel. You know, it's really one of those books that is not only -- it's woven into the fabric of america. And here at the center you have this man that creates himself according to his own imagination. AND THE 1920s IN A PLACE LIKE America where everything -- baz luhrmann creates that world in such a spectacular way. Yes, he does. HE -- HE REALLY MADE THE 1920s In this film. But with baz, you know, any time you sit in a room with him he's one of the most nostalgic sort of exciting artists you could everen your ter and almost impossible to say no to him because he transports you to another era. Were you reluctant. I was reluctant because i think that what's so powerful about this novel is everyone has their own interpretation of these characters and it's such a voyeuristic novel. The way fitzgerald writes these scenes you feel like you're in the room with them so everyone has their own intimate relationship with these -- especially in 3d. Does that change when you're acting, do you adjust your performance knowing it's going to be in 3d. Oh, no, never. But, you know, we really attempted this like a theater prducti production. The last plaza sequence which is ten minutes long in the movie which is the final climax of the novel. The fight. The big fight at the end, you know, we rehearsed that like a theater company for weeks and weeks and endlessly tried to dissect fitzgerald's words and went into that room for two weeks and locked ourselves away. But the great thing about 3d that I think is so surprising in this film is that it gives you that ability to immerse yourself in the room. You understand the palpable tension between the characters. No question about that. You feel the heat of the room that fitzgerald so describes and it just adds another layer of what it's like to be the reader and feel like you're in the room. That is absolutely true and you can feel all that intensity. We only have a minute left. I want to ask you about th. The 11th hour. You're sponsoring an auction with christie's. Yes. All to raise money for the environment and wildlife pre preservat preservation. Tell us about it. I've been involved in environmental issues for 15 years now and, you know, only 2% of philanthropy goes towards ecology. Surprising number. That is surprising. It is very surprising. So for me it was about raising awareness of these issues, what we're trying to do is conserve and save pristine ecosystems. We're showing some of the artwork. Coral reef systems, forests home to endangered species and 33 of the greatest sort of contemporary artists have donated works to the christie's auction and all will go toward conserving these last wild place. That is gray coming up may 13th. MAY 13th. I'm in my promotion now. Christie's.Com, 11hour auction. Check it outen 0line sign up to bid. Great work. Check out "the great gatsby" friday.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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