Tuesday 20 February 2018

This boy's life: Leo's journey from LA to award glory

One of his era's finest script actors: Leonardo DiCaprio.
One of his era's finest script actors: Leonardo DiCaprio.

Paul Whitington

If Leonardo DiCaprio looked genuinely moved by the extended standing ovation he got from his peers on Sunday night, it's hardly surprising. Actors may claim they don't care about awards, but DiCaprio has been knocking on the Academy's door for close on two decades, and to say the least, was due a break. Incredibly, this is his first win from five attempts, and the suspicion remains that some critics and industry insiders have never quite accepted him as a serious performer.

This is no doubt due to the fact that DiCaprio is a former child actor who became a teen pin-up after starring in Titanic, that whiff of bubblegum celebrity has never quite left him, fuelled to some extent by his amorous adventures with the world's top models. But Leo has always detested the glare of publicity, and he tolerates it solely so he can continue doing the thing he really loves - film acting.

He grew up in a tough part of central Los Angeles, and by the age of four was acting in TV commercials. Small roles in TV comedies like Roseanne followed, but Leo got his crucial break in 1992 when Robert De Niro chose him to co-star in This Boy's Life.

DiCaprio was 22 when cast opposite Kate Winslet in James Cameron's Titanic. Suddenly, he was a global superstar, an experience he found "completely disconcerting and surreal".

Acting would ground him, but he had to work hard to prove he was more than just a very pretty face. His turn in Steven Spielberg's 2002 crime drama Catch Me If You Can gave a tantalysing glimpse of the actor Leo would soon become, but Martin Scorsese has been his key collaborator. They first worked together on Gangs of New York, and DiCaprio was superb playing Howard Hughes in Scorsese's lavish 2004 biopic The Aviator. Leo's performance in Scorsese's 2006 crime thriller The Departed was even better: he played a young cop who goes undercover to infiltrate the vicious gang of Irish mobster Frank Costello, and more than held his own with co-star Jack Nicholson.

His most recent Oscar nomination was in 2013, in Martine Scorsese's baroque financial biopic Wolf of Wall Street, though I thought he was better in Scorsese's 2010 psychological noir thriller Shutter Island. He's one of his era's finest screen actors, and has at last been recognised.

Irish Independent

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