Leonardo DiCaprio : “I want my films to be”events

Leonardo DiCaprio : "Je veux que mes films soient des événements"

The Revenant will return Sunday night on France 2. On its release in 2016, we met its star.

This interview was published in full in the 468th number of First (February 2016), just before Leo gets (finally !) the best actor Oscar. (Click here to subscribe)

When one enters the small living room of the top floor of the Soho Grand Hotel, New York, where we agreed to meet you, Leonardo DiCaprio is smoking and contemplating the sun, which falls on Manhattan. He turns, comes forward, smiling, eyes vaguely filled by the melancholy (or is it just a little bit tired ?). We are convinced of having already lived this scene, but where ? When ? Ah, if, of course, it comes back : replace the cigarette electronic by a door-cigarette and the hoodie with a tuxedo and you’re the face of Gatsby. Leo the magnificent. Princely and friendly. Only in his kingdom. It avachit in a sofa, asked about the health of the press, the cinema (“it is not very hard, isn’t it ?”), and then you can talk to Scorsese, who has just landed in Paris a few hours earlier for the inauguration of the great exhibition of the Cinémathèque. His ways are those of a quadra cool, well in his time, but something betrays imperceptibly the fact that he lives in another dimension, another time and space. We swear that it floats a few centimeters above the ground. A light veil seems to keep them at a distance from the rest of the world. It is a star, yes, a real, old-fashioned, one of those that you now count on the fingers of one hand (him, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, who else ?). There are nearly twenty years, Titanic has given him full powers, he made good use of it. A force of effort, perseverance, he finally defeated the resistance and become the actor he dreamed of being – something like Redford and De Niro rolled into one. All the titles of his films testify to the very high idea he has of his profession : that of the great names on his CV, no blockbusters, no film of super-heroes, branchouilleries arty, no cameo, no joke. Seriously. The Revenant is his latest fantasy, a survival of 2 hours and 40 minutes where he rolls his eyes furious in the far North, a behemoth of cinema at the budget crazy (about 135 million dollars) which has come to threaten Star Wars at the box office on the day of release US. A new stone in the garden of Leonardo, a man who has an acute awareness of its power – and how to put it to good use.


Honest Trailer (very funny) The Revenant : “DiCaprio shows its range of grunts”

First : Since the triumph of Titanic, the principle of your films is clear : don’t turn out that with some of the greatest filmmakers in activity. Scorsese, Spielberg, Eastwood, Tarantino, Nolan… We agree ? There it is, the red wire ?
Leonardo DiCaprio : Yes. This is my credo in any case : the film is a case of the filmmakers. A good scenario, it is important, but I have seen so many excellent stories to give results irregardables… I love the filmmakers whose name is synonymous with excellence. They are not so many as that. If we are going to see a Scorsese, it is because we know that he has a unique voice, a vision of the world that belongs only to him. This is also what I like as a spectator. To immerse myself in an alternate reality, I would need to be taken by the hand by someone that I know he’s going to offer me something exceptional.

And so, today, you add Iñárritu to your table hunting…
In a way, it reminds me of Scorsese. It is an outsider, too. What he does in The Revenant is amazing. Look at the battle scene that opens the film : it is both with the main character, you could feel his breath, his sweat, his fear, all in the midst of a vast tumult ultra-choreographed, with these clusters of Indians who rely on their attackers… The movements of all the actors were carefully prepared in advance, a bit like in The Ark Russian. But the result is nevertheless very authentic, almost documentary. It’s like… (thinking) neo-realism, virtual. It’s not bad, as a formula, right ? Maybe I should drop the term. (Laughter)

There has always been this dimension masochist in your work, both in the characters that you choose to interpret that in the underlying idea that the great american films were born in the pain. There, on The Revenant, you were served : the frigid temperatures, the shooting described by some extras like a real hell…
I knew it was a risky business and, in many ways, it was much more difficult than I had imagined. Without a doubt my shooting is the more hardcore since Titanic. This huge team that it was necessary to take several hours per day in remote corners, the kind that imposes his law… Without the qualities of organizational Alejandro, his thoroughness, the certainty that he had in his vision, we could find ourselves in a situation to the Apocalypse Now ! (Laughter) But it was pulled. And the difficulties did not prevent a certain lightness. Alejandro and Chivo (the cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki) is eclipsed sometimes in the forest, were trying to film the leaves falling of the trees, or ants walking on a stick…

You have been Howard Hughes, J. Edgar Hoover, Gatsby… Hugh Glass is also an american legend – even if, in France, one hardly knows…
Yes, the United States, it is part of the folklore. It is a camp fire legend, it tells the story of his exploits in the evening by the fire. It embodies the spirit of the pioneers, great adventurers, survivalist. But make a movie about him, it’s not like telling the story of the life ofAbraham Lincoln or Steve Jobs. We know very little about his account, there is almost no document about it, then it allows you to fantasize a little, to approach it in a poetic way.

Is it that you perceive all the echoes themes between your roles ? There was the famous doubled Shutter IslandInception in 2010, these two films twins in the form of mental travel. Then your films began to resemble a broad reflection on the history of capitalism US, with the slavery degenerated of Django Unchained, the trader bowed to the Wolf of Wall Street, the great Gatsby
Yes, my trilogy of the american dream…

The Revenant : the true story of Hugh Glass is even more insane as the film

The Revenant would be almost a new chapter…
It’s a little different to my eyes. Django, Gatsby, Wolf of Wall Street were really three films on the american dream, the pursuit of happiness and the moral corruption engendered by wealth. Hugh Glass is at hand. It is an outsider. It is closer to the native, he has a son, métis, he is horrified by the violence which he witnessed. It is as if he wanted to disappear, dissolve into the landscape.

And these connections also thematic, are they aware? Or you can make it just an afterthought ?
Let’s say that I’m clearly attracted to a certain type of subjects. And it interests me to talk about it. But I prefer to think about once the films have been shot. Now that you have me point out, for example, I say to myself that it might be in effect to include The Revenant in this very movement, as if I went back, the thread of american history. Here it is, one is to the origins. Across our country, the era of The Revenant, it’s almost prehistoric.

Most of the movies that we just mentioned exist only because you are playing in. It is your presence which guarantees their existence. Is it difficult to maintain this level of requirement ? And is that it is more difficult today than, say, fifteen years ago ?
More difficult, yes. It is always a struggle. As you have pointed out, I’m attracted to this genre of films : auteur films to big budget, made by artists. It doesn’t mean that I’m not interested in independent film, I did. But I want the films I shoot are events. Once a year, if possible, to hear a bell sound different. Hollywood is in the midst of a transition. The level of the tv production has never been higher. It is caught between the series, which thrive on good stories, and big entertainment type Transformers or Star Wars. There are fewer opportunities for the films that I love to do. So when I find something that interests me, I jump on it and I do not loose.

The Revenant : all the sacrifices of Leonardo to get an Oscar

Trailer for The Revenant, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu :