History of Cinema--
Leo: Back to Basics

         When asked, “What actor has had a significant impact on film?”--many times, if not all, people say four words, “Hey Stella! Hey Stella!” and then go on to talk about Marlon Brando’s impact on acting in cinema (I even wrote about it in an essay of mine). However, I will not go for the trite answer and say Brando but, instead, cite another actor that has been leaving an impression on film since he was young. That actor, whom I have an immense amount of respect for is Leonardo DiCaprio.

         Leonardo DiCaprio has had his share of rough times in the movie industry. For a while people thought he would not be able to shake the child star image he had from working on different TV shows. From 1991 to early 1993 he played typical characters for a young actor. However, in the mid to late 1993 he appeared as Arnie Grape in Lasse Hallström’s What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993). For many this showed a different side to the actor, one you do not see in most other actors and that is: the ability to act.

         For audiences Leonardo’s Arnie Grape is only the beginning. Jim Caroll in Scott Kalvert’s The Basketball Diaries (1995) showed the rough, gritty characterization. He caught criticism for Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet (1996) and Randall Wallace’s The Man in the Iron Mask (1996). However, bounced back into everyone’s favor for his role in Titanic (1997), the largest grossing movie of all time.

         But these are not the movies that first introduced me to Leo. In actuality his latest movie to date, Martin Scorsese’s The Departed (2006) is the first time I appreciated his acting. Combined with Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me if You Can (2002), I started to really appreciate his style of acting. Catch Me if You Can was actually the first movie I watched the commentary on and the “making of featurette.” I learned that to prepare for the role he followed the real Frank Abignale around to learn his mannerisms and understand more about him.

         For Martin Scorses’s The Aviator (2004) he studied people with OCD to pick up on small things they did to help his character. This characterization is what every actor should do…every actor that cares about acting anyway. Leo is one actor that actually cares about acting. This caring shows in his work. He puts on performances that people love; he has won seventeen awards total, has been nominated for thirty-nine and three Oscars. On top of that he was part of Titanic and The Departed, one that just one best picture and the other that is the most productive movie of all time.

         On top of all this another little known fact about Leo was, before he shot Romeo + Juliet, he paid for a trip to Australia to shoot some scenes for free (and paid a lot out of his own pocket) to convince the studios to produce the movie. On the same account he has produced many of the movies that he is a part in.

         It might be far-fetched to say, but I believe that Leonardo DiCaprio is our generation’s Marlon Brando. He is an actor that cares about his craft and demands the respect of other actors, future actors, and actor’s enthusiasts alike. He deserves attention and respect.

A. J. Casey

Table of Contents