Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
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There are certainly many ways to define Leonardo DiCaprio, who began the year as Gatsby and ended it with a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in the Comedy Motion Picture category (his 10th overall) for his performance in Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street.
Although he is one of Hollywood’s undisputed superstars, some may still focus on the romantic liaisons that have tied him to enough stunning top models to fill a virtual swimsuit calendar. Others may highlight a public stance that at times could be mistaken for arrogance, or, conversely, mention his ongoing efforts to be taken seriously, as if trying to distance himself still from the baby face that made us fall in love with him when he started out as a child actor and teen heartthrob. You could note all that and more, but you would be hard-pressed to deny the brightness of his star, which has only grown brighter with the passing years. And you can’t deny his talent; even Batman agrees on that count. “He’s somewhat more successful than myself. Let’s not pretend. And most people would agree with what I said,” confirmed a humorous Christian Bale during a recent chat with the HFPA when his success was compared with Leo’s.
DiCaprio’s love for movies and his instinctive talent as an actor are undeniable. Robert De Niro noticed them first when they worked together in This Boy’s Life. And he couldn’t refrain from telling everyone in the industry, specially his pal, Marty Scorsese. Scorsese not only agreed with De Niro but also took Leo under his wing and made him one of his most frequent recurring collaborators. “He renewed my energy in cinema,” says the director when you mention DiCaprio’s name.
Their last artistic collaboration is Wolf, based on Jordan Belfort’s memoirs, and it has earned DiCaprio his ninth acting Golden Globes nomination. Previously he had been nominated for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, Titanic, Catch Me if You Can, The Departed, Blood Diamond, Revolutionary Road, J Edgar and Django Unchained (for that movie he was also nominated as Quentin Tarantino’s producer). He won the Best Actor award in 2005 for his portrayal of Howard Hughes in The Aviator.
Some are now calling his portrayal of Belfort In Wolf his best performance ever. For his part, the actor calls his character a ‘modern-day Caligula’ and in many ways the film portrays the hubris and greed of Wall Street as the excesses of a financial Empire’s twilight. Much as Scorsese’s mob films do, it is also the portrait of the American Dream taken to unhealthy extremes. And DiCaprio is the pulsating heart of the film: Carousing from party, to board meeting, to drug-fueled orgy, he creates a character that eerily echoes the Gatsby he portrayed at the beginning of the year; only Belfort is not intoxicated by love but by pure greed, the profits-at-all-costs that underlie so much of corporate malfeasance and by extension the materialism of contemporary culture.
It's a character that DiCaprio considers part of what he calls an “American trilogy of wealth” coming on the heels of Gatsby and the vicious plantation owner he played in Django Unchained; three variations on a theme that encapsulate his commitment to his roles and an overarching passion for film making.
The same love that drove him to create his own production company, Appian Way Productions, after the success of Titanic as a way of soliciting suitable roles for him to play. The company was born out of necessity but now is a driving force in Hollywood, not only for making his own movies but also for bringing to life other people’s stories. Many of his Hollywood friends and collaborators will be on hand on January 12 to see if he will win his second Golden Globe.