Having grown up with ambition, but not monetary wealth, actor Leonardo DiCaprio says he can relate to the character he plays in the big-screen adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic American novel "The Great Gatsby."

Set on Long Island, N.Y., and in Manhattan during the 1920s, the film is about a man without money or status who re-invents himself as a wealthy power-broker and attempts to win the heart of Daisy, the woman he has loved his whole life but who is married to the blue-blooded Tom.

Asked at a recent New York press conference if he connected to the role of Jay Gatsby because he didn't start out his life with money, DiCaprio replied, "Sure."

"I think everyone has some sort of connection to Gatsby as a character," he added. "He is a character that has created himself according to his own imagination and dreams and lifted himself by his own bootstraps as a poor youth in the Midwest and created the image that is 'the great Gatsby.' It is a truly American story in that regard. Here is this emerging democracy that is America in the 1920s and he wants to emulate a Rockefeller of that time period and, of course, creates his wealth in the underworld, but this is the new land that is America and it was a very exciting time. I think we can all relate to that dreamer in Gatsby. Each one of us gets excited by the prospect of somebody that has that much ambition."

Featuring a score by rapper Jay-Z and co-starring Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton, Tobey Maguire, Jason Clarke and Isla Fisher, "The Great Gatsby" is set for release in U.S. theaters Friday. It will open France's Cannes Festival May 15.

DiCaprio and the film's writer-director-producer, Baz Luhrmann, previously worked together on "William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet."