Actor of the Week: Leonardo DiCaprio
Quite often, it’s difficult to know where to start when picking our Actor of the Week. This week’s winner is the living-legend Leonardo DiCaprio! In a similar vein, it’s difficult to know where to start when dissecting DiCaprio’s career and qualities. He’s at the top of the list and at the top of his game, and it seems like there’s not a major actor or director that he hasn’t worked with.
DiCaprio has had a very diverse career. From TV sitcoms, to leading roles in the biggest films, he’s got all bases covered. 1993’s What’s Eating Gilbert Grape saw Leo play the role of a mentally challenged young man, cared for by his brother after their father’s death. This was the first time he was nominated for an Oscar, an award that would, astonishingly, elude him for far longer than it should have. Comparing this role to, say, that of Romeo in Romeo and Juliet shows just how varied his qualities really are. One being a mentally disabled boy, the other being an adaptation of one of the most famous Shakespeare stories.
Titanic is the film that first comes to mind when I think of DiCaprio, purely down to the immense popularity of the film, as well as it being a personal favourite of my family’s. DiCaprio plays Jack Dawson, a poor artist who wins boarding tickets for the ill-fated RMS Titanic’s maiden voyage in a card game. On the ship, Dawson subsequently meets, and falls in love with, Kate Winslet’s Rose DeWitt Bukater. DiCaprio is great in this film, and does an excellent job of exploring the explicit differences between classes at the time. He is also charming and funny, and puts across a great intensity when it all hits the fan and the ship goes down. It’s a must-see, though I imagine most people already have!
DiCaprio worked with Life of Films-favourite Christopher Nolan in 2010’s Inception. DiCaprio plays Dominic Cobb, a master thief, and an international fugitive as a result. Being a wanted man has seen him lose everything he has loved from his old life. Cobb’s skill as a thief isn’t physical, however - it is mental. He infiltrates people's dreams and steals the most valuable information from their subconscious. When offered a chance to regain everything he has lost, he naturally jumps at it. But Cobb and his dream team must achieve the opposite to theft - inception. Instead of stealing information from a mind, they must plant it, which is deemed impossible. DiCaprio’s skills are obvious for all to see in Inception. There are action scenes, highly emotional scenes, and mind-boggling scenes, all of which Leo pulls off with ease and really draws you into the world. This is something I consider to be especially impressive with Inception, because the concept of the film is so complex, therefore DiCaprio delivering in the way he does keeps the interest and attention of the viewer at peak levels. Inception also saw DiCaprio work with previous AotW winner Tom Hardy, who plays the sarcastic and smooth Eames. While Inception won 4 Oscars, it’s staggering to think it didn’t garner nomination for Lead Actor, due to DiCaprio’s performance.
A personal favourite has to be The Wolf of Wall Street. Leo plays the role of Jordan Belfort, a stockbroker who rises to the top of the tree with his company Stratford-Oakmont via corruption and fraud. As his status grows, so does the lifestyle. Belfort earns more and more money, and throws parties that get wilder and wilder, using many substances to fuel the lifestyle along the way. DiCaprio’s portrayal of Belfort is fantastic. He goes from a humble guy in the beginning, to a maniac as the film goes on, and DiCaprio encapsulates the transformation perfectly. This role saw him nominated for yet another Oscar, but, once again, it would escape his grasp. In The Wolf of Wall Street, Leo worked with two past AotW winners in Margot Robbie and Matthew McConaughey.
DiCaprio’s Oscar duck was finally broken in 2016, when he won the award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role for The Revenant. He plays frontiersman Hugh Glass, who struggles to survive in the bitter cold after he is left for dead by members of his own following a savage attack by a bear. Before he is abandoned, he witnesses Tom Hardy’s John Fitzgerald murder his son, but is unable to do anything to prevent it due to the injuries he sustained. With this driving him on, Glass does his utmost to return to full fitness and track down Fitzgerald, hell-bent on revenge. This is an awesome performance from DiCaprio. Every scene he is in brings something different. He really strips it back, showing the sheer will of man. You really feel the pain of loss with him due to the level of quality he brings, and want him to gain closure as a result. Whilst this film finally brought him an Oscar, and absolutely deservedly so, it is shocking to think it took him that long, considering outstanding career he’s had.
A couple of other big roles DiCaprio has had are in The Departed, where he worked with another AotW winner in Matt Damon, and yet another in 2004’s The Aviator, alongside Cate Blanchett. There’s so many more films I could talk about, and when you consider all these huge films and big names, it’s little wonder he is one of the most celebrated actors in the business. It’s a real pleasure to sit back and enjoy many of DiCaprio’s diverse and fantastic roles, and here’s to many more!