Leonardo DiCaprio Interview – ‘The Great Gatsby’
Leonardo Dicaprio, 38, is never one to shy from a challenge. He takes on the iconic role of Jay Gatsby in Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, opposite Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire.
Dicaprio began acting as a child in the TV series Santa Barbara and sitcom Growing Pains. He went onto star in some of the world’s biggest blockbusters such as Titanic, Romeo + Juliet, The Aviator, Gangs of New York, Blood Diamond, Revolutionary Road, The Departed, Inception, and Django Unchained.
His romantic relationships include Brazilian model, Gisele Bundchen, Bar Refaeli, Blake Lively, and Erin Heatherton.
Q: Gatsby is impeccably stylish. How important is fashion for you?
I think I have very little fashion sense in my own life. To tell you the truth, I give it very little thought. If I am being very honest and I am, I have never been a fashionista or someone who puts a lot of thought into what I wear. I dress to be as comfortable as I possibly can and of course when I have to do premieres and be out in public I want to dress appropriately. (Laughs)
Q: Was it a concern that you had to be good looking for this role?
Was that a concern? (laughter) No, it wasn’t a concern at all really. I basically did to the best of my ability everything that I could to investigate Fitzgerald’s words and his imagery that he created for who Gatsby was and anything that was right for the character is what I tried to achieve. I mean we were pretty meticulous about every stitch of clothing that Gatsby had, the way he wore his hair, the type of suit that he had, but also really investigated each different sequence and tried to understand the intent of not only Gatsby, but all the characters around him. That’s the one thing about this movie, as much as Baz (Luhrmann) creates these fantastic worlds filled with imagery and modern connectivity, as far as connecting with a younger audience, he’s very meticulous about remaining true to the essence of what makes these stories great. That was with Romeo and Juliet and even though he created an entire new universe, when it came to the Bard we were meticulous about it. When it came to Fitzgerald’s novel, we wanted to emulate everything that Fitzgerald is trying to say about that time period, about these people, and about these very multi-faceted incredibly interesting, almost existential characters and that’s what we did. So anything that was right for Gatsby was just second nature, it was just what we did.
Q: Didn’t you avoid in the last few years these kinds of handsome roles?
Not at all, no. Really, I mean, this is fitting for the character and people have asked me if I avoided romance or love stories, but no, not at all. The only pre-requisite or criteria that I have for doing anything is, is there enough there to do? (laughs) Is there enough to mention to the characters, is there enough, otherwise, I become bored as an actor. And Gatsby to me is one of the most compelling, interesting characters I’ve ever read, because it’s all very subtle. And I remember picking up the book as a 15 year old and reading The Great Gatsby and not quite connecting with the novel the way I did as an adult and it took on a new form and it took on a completely different outlook as an adult.
Q: Did you have any hesitation or reservation taking on such an iconic American character?
Q: How did you get through it?
You know, the truth is, it is a very risky undertaking. Like I said, everyone has got their version of The Great Gatsby. I can’t tell you how many people come up to me and have said that this is their favorite book of all time. There aren’t many projects you’re a part of where people have that expectation going into the theaters, so they are going to want to see you dramatize things that they have got stuck in their head. And it’s very risky in the sense that every time you make a movie, you have to be specific and people may disagree with what you are doing. So yeah, there was a tremendous amount of skepticism going into this, but there were two things that really made me want to jump head first into it. Number one was re-reading the book, and becoming re-fascinated by Gatsby as a character, trying to put something up on screen that I felt was important to represent who this character was and then also the partnership of having Tobey (Maguire) involved and Baz, both people who I have known for over 20 years as trusted sort of collaborators, who could always be honest with each other, and make a sort of contract with one another that no matter what we do cinematically, we are going to try to remain as true as we can to the novel and capture the essence of what made this book so great. But yeah, there was a tremendous amount of hesitation initially, but it was really that partnership and that trust.
Q: How about the parallels as you see it? Gatsby talks about fame and the fact he doesn’t always know who his friends are.
Well the truth is, my life is much different than Gatsby’s. Gatsby is completely disconnected with what is going on around him, and the great tragedy at the end is that he throws these lavish parties where everyone in the world wants to be a part of his world and connect with him and show up and join in the fun, but once he becomes tabloid fodder and once people start investigating his past and once there’s this sort of Page Six squabble about his relationship with Daisy and where he made his fortune, nobody shows up to his funeral. Nobody wants to be attached to him. Everyone disappears. For me in my life, I have grown up with great family and friends surrounding me but Gatsby is somebody that erased his past, and left all of his connections and his humble beginnings so he could re-invent himself. But I do identify with the ambition and I think certainly everyone does with the idea of him becoming this dreamer, somebody that has manifested this image of what he wanted as an adult and worked tirelessly and had such great ambition to become that. He is the manifestation of his own dreams.
Q: Recently you mentioned that you are more comfortable now than you have ever been. Why is that? Is it because you are turning 40?
Two more years and I am holding onto my 30s desperately. (laughter) I suppose it’s something that comes with age. I have grown up in this industry, I have been acting ever since I was 13 years old, ever since I really have known Tobey (laughs) I have been acting, so in a lot of ways, I have grown up on screen and in the public eye. But there comes a point and I suppose, I don’t know where or when I said that, but yeah, I do feel more comfortable than ever before. It’s just in the realization that it’s just sort of been this grand journey to fulfill my childhood dreams in a lot of ways. I lived in Hollywood, I was somebody that knew about the industry, and I wanted to become an actor. I was within and without and I never felt like I belonged, and I got my foot in the door and from then on it felt like I was winning the lottery. I am just so excited to be able to do what I do and that it’s been this long journey.
Q: How was it like working with Baz again?
Baz is a bit of Gatsby himself. He is the manifestation of his own dreams, and he’s been vigilant about being his own unique artist and creating a world around him that supports him. He is one of the most infectious directors I have ever met as far as his enthusiasm for doing great art. You cannot get in a room with Baz and not feel nostalgic for the world that you are going to create, and I knew that as soon as he handed me the book, as hesitant as I was about venturing into such respected material, I knew I wasn’t going to say no. I knew that by merely being in the room with Baz, it was inevitable. He has such a tremendous enthusiasm about being an artist and you just get caught up in the whirlwind that is Baz Luhrman and it is incredibly exciting. And he was the same way when I met him when I was 18 when I flew to Australia to do a little test rehearsal for Romeo and Juliet, he’s a very risky filmmaker and he doesn’t take on simple stories. He wanted to take on Romeo and Juliet, and do an entirely different universe for it, he wanted to take on The Great Gatsby and they are incredibly risky undertakings. But I admire that in him.