An Appreciation: Leo, From DiCraprio to DeCaprio - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

An Appreciation: Leo, From DiCraprio to DeCaprio

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A funny thing happened to Leonardo DiCaprio in the last 10 years. He went from being the heartthrob to not really being in the conversation anymore, replaced by the likes of Zac Efron and the stars of Twilight. Throngs of teenage girls do not shriek wildly when he is at a premiere nor is he on the cover of magazines every week. Yet something else interesting happened these same 10 year as DiCaprio became our most consistent movie star in terms of making interesting films that are both critically acclaimed and commercially solid.

The biggest stars should have their best track record during the peak of their popularity. It makes sense that because the biggest stars are the most in demand, they have the first crack at most of the screenplays and creative minds in town.

All you have to do is look at Tom Hanks’ movie choices during the late 90’s early 00’s to see a contrast; he had the choice pickings of people and stories to work with. I can’t imagine anyone else being the voice of Woody or too many actors having the balls to make Castaway, but for many of the films he made, such as Apollo 13, Saving Private Ryan, Green Mile, Road to Perdition and Catch Me If You Can, were all movies that were either (or both) so well written or directed that most decent actors would have done a great job. Near the middle of this decade, Tom Hanks started taking more chances that did not pan out (The Ladykillers, The Terminal) and started making movies that were just a paycheck (The DaVinci Code) and slowly lost the seal of approval that stated that if he was in the movie it was worth checking out.

You can also look at two other of Hollywood's former and current stars to see what they've done. Tom Cruise was also on top of the movie world and made a small string of movies that were ambitious, but Cruise infamously went crazy in 2005 and his roles have become much more conventional ever since. Will Smith would be the third person on the list of traditional power guys in Hollywood, but his movies were either just big hits without much heart  (Hitch, Bad Boys II, Pursuit of Happyness) or movies that tried to be something more but missed the mark (I Robot, Hancock). He never worked with the biggest and best in Hollywood during this time and I don’t know how much he really wanted to or cared.

After looking at these three powerhouses and comparing it to DiCaprio’s output, it is amazing at what DiCaprio has done. In the past 10 years, he has worked with Spielberg, Scorcese (4 times), Ridley Scott, Sam Mendes, Danny Boyle and Christopher Nolan. He has been in two Best Picture nominees and one Best Picture winner. He helped Scorcese win his long deserved Oscar and starred in his 3 biggest grossing films. Leo has acted with such big names as Tom Hanks, Daniel Day Lewis and Russel Crowe and was not blown off the screen. Both Kate Winslet and Cate Blanchett won their overdue Oscars while performing with him.

Finally, he has had 5 $100 million hits this past decade with only one commercial bomb (Revolutionary Road) one critical bomb (The Beach) and a few so-so releases (Body of Lies, Blood Diamond). Out of those 5 $100 million hits, none were “safe movies” that were based on wildly popular franchises. He helped make these movies a success by working with the right people and making movies that were enjoyable and well made.

Back in the late 90's, DiCaprio was a very divisive actor, with some people worshiping him and some people hating him. He made some questionable choices (not going to the Oscars the year of Titanic because he was not nominated) and was in the press all the time, hanging with his entourage and picking up girls.

It seems in the past 10 years, though, he has grown up and the only time you ever hear of him is when he is in a new movie. He gives his all to the films he is in and never coasts on his charm or name. Unlike some contemporaries like Robert Downey Jr. and Johnny Depp, he has not been in a movie that left you scratching your head at the waste of talent on screen like Sherlock Holmes or Alice in Wonderland. He has thankfully never gone the easy way and done a romantic comedy (I shudder to imagine him in something like The Bounty Hunter or starring in a rom-com opposite Kate Hudson or Sarah Jessica Parker).

It is time that his detractors finally swallow whatever ill-conceived hatred the have for the guy and admit he is one of the actors making the most interesting choices out there. Stop blaming him for Titanic. Every movie he makes might not be the greatest film ever made but you know that when he is attached, you have to at least pay attention, because there is always a good reason he is signing on.

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Posted by Ryan

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