Wow, Leonardo DiCaprio is seriously campaigning for the Oscar this year. I don’t remember him ever waging this kind of real “campaign” before, not for the other times he was nominated. Maybe he really wants it this year. Maybe he figures that his biggest competition is Matthew McConaughey and why not give Matthew a real run for his money? So, Leo agreed to this Variety Mag cover profile and it’s pretty epic. Leo’s quotes are charming, humble and serious when they need to be. Marty Scorsese sings his praises. Tobey Maguire is called on to fill out the requisite “Leo is the most amazing actor of his generation” profile stuff. It’s a really great piece of Oscar campaigning. You can read the whole thing here, and here are some highlights:
Being a child actor: “When I started acting, I didn’t think of it as a career. I always thought Hollywood was this magical world where a fairy came down and said, ‘Come live with the Munchkins; you are now one of us.’ ” He laughs. “I didn’t understand the concept of it as a career. I thought I would save up enough money to go to college.”
Growing up in “Prostitution Alley”: “I saw all the moral decay you could, beginning at 2 years old. But I also got to see how the other half lived.” That was thanks to a to scholarship to University Elementary School, a magnet program of UCLA, in the tony Westwood section of Los Angeles. His mother would drive him 45 minutes to school and back every day. “I could see that this other world was out there. And if I could only get my shot, I would never waste the opportunity. That mentality and that gratitude are still in me.”
The criticisms of Wolf of Wall Street: “We knew we were doing a movie about incredibly distasteful people, and their likability would be questioned,” DiCaprio acknowledges. “But Marty said, ‘I’ve done a lot of movies like this, and I find that if you’re authentic in your portrayal of their nature and don’t try to give them a false sense of motivation, audiences will go along with you on the journey.’ ”
Why Leo has been going the extra mile to promote WOWS: “I really wanted this movie to succeed, because to me, you don’t see R-rated films like this getting made that aren’t on an epic scale. So I’m glad this film is now in the green. Studios ultimately look at what works and what doesn’t, and greenlight the things that do.”
Turning down a lot of money when he was just a teenager: He was offered “more money than I ever dreamed of” to take a role in the Disney family film “Hocus Pocus.” But he decided he wanted to hold out for a small indie for which he hadn’t even auditioned yet, “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.” “I don’t know where the hell I got the nerve,” he says now. “You live in an environment where you’re influenced by people telling you to make a lot of money and strike while the iron’s hot. But if there’s one thing I’m very proud of, it’s being a young man who was sticking to my guns.”
Early fame: “When I was 14, I was on the cover of Bop and Tiger Beat. Every two months, I would see a new kid’s face, and I remember saying, ‘This is not something that lasts very long.’ ”
Leo the producer: “To tell you the truth, my producer cap is a very selfish one. On the road to finding material for myself, we accumulate other things that are interesting. I’m very active in putting a team together, deciding what the focus of the story should be. Because if the right people aren’t chosen from the start, a great idea can turn out very different. But once you give it over to a filmmaker, you have to allow them to do their thing.”
He auditioned for Moulin Rouge: Years earlier, he met with Luhrmann about the role in “Moulin Rogue!” that eventually went to Ewan McGregor. “To be honest, I’m not really prepared to do a musical, simply because I think I have a pretty atrocious voice,” he notes. “But we had a friendly thing where it was me and him and a piano player, and we tried to sing a song together. It didn’t go too well. I think it was ‘Lean on Me,’ and when I hit the high note, he just turned to me.” At this point, DiCaprio affects Luhrmann’s Australian accent, “ ‘Yes, D, I don’t know if this conversation should continue.’ ” With that, DiCaprio dissolves into laughter. “The truth is,” he says, “I honestly feel just so lucky to make movies.”
There’s a lengthy discussion of his preparation for Gilbert Grape and for his big dramatic breakout in This Boy’s Life. Peppered throughout the piece are some choice bits of information too: Leo’s had the same manager for 20 years, Leo still has an acting coach for tune-ups, Leo is extremely loyal to his business associates and his friends, Leo is An Artist and A Serious Actor. Here’s the thing: I have no doubt that Leo will eventually win an Oscar. He’s very respected in the Hollywood circles that matter, and he turns in consistently good work in films that make money. They’ll give him an Oscar at some point. I just don’t know if they’ll give him an Oscar for WOWS. That being said, I’m enjoying his campaign. We’ll see, Leo. We’ll see.
Photos courtesy of Yu Tsai/Variety.