There are celebrities and then there are movie stars — actors that take you back to the days when names like Carey Grant and Ingrid Bergman ran Hollywood leaving no room for the “little guy.” A time before all the paparazzi killed the mystery and turned Hollywood into a reality channel. Certain actors harkens back memories of the movie star, Leonardo DiCaprio is lucky enough to still carry some of that old Hollywood charm and did so at the Shutter Island press conference with Martin Scorsese in London.
He started as, “Leo” a teen heartthrob with dreamy blue eyes but with a number of accomplished dramatic roles over the past decade alongside some of the best directors of the past millennium, he has well established himself more as “Leonardo DiCaprio,” a true actor that takes us back to the good ol’ days and can sell a ticket reading a phonebook.
Despite the tabloids exploiting the few pictures of Leo drinking a Latte, we have a pieces from the press conference with DiCaprio where he talks about his true passion, acting. He walks about taking on the most difficult role of his life, why he’s attracted to such dark roles and what drives him…
You put yourself through hell in this film, it took you obviously into some very dark places, what drives you to work on such dark and dramatic roles?
DiCaprio: Self-imposed suffering (laughs). It was the nature of the material. At first glace, when I first read the book and the script, it was obviously a very complex jigsaw puzzle, and the line in which reality starts and dreams begin in Teddy’s past is blurred. But throughout the movie, you start to learn about different facets of Teddy Daniels’s mind on Shutter Island and it’s a truth about his past, dramatic truth. It’s a very ultra complex character study. In order to tell the story, we had to push the emotional story-lines, to have one set of circumstances what we believed and what we needed to push to the emotional extremes. I think that both of us (Martin Scorsese and I) kept Teddy going into dark and dark places in the film and I think it was surprising for the both of us, because only reading a screenplay there is only so much you can do. When you need to extract what is written on the page to being there and having to do these sequences in this movie and it really shocked us I think.
As it has been said it is a very demanding role you’ve tackled, and you’re also tackling Virgina Wolf at the moment. How do you keep your sanity while doing all of these intense characters?
DiCaprio: Well by sheer necessity to survive the film-making process you have to switch off when you go home. I do say that with all sincerity because it was a very demanding role. Look, ultimately I am challenged by these types of characters that challenge me and this is maybe the most challenging one to date. Physically yes, emotionally more so. But it gives me great excitement you know this character, as Marty mentioned earlier, it is very difficult one to talk about as with the narrative in detail, for people to have that virgin experience.
So we are very conscience, Marty, Sir Ben and myself, on a film that has a different interpretation, with different meanings and a certain ambiguity at the ending of this film and through out the entire movie that could give the audience a different experiences on further viewings. So that also challenges me as an actor in the way I portray Teddy, there will often times were we will, “how do I say this, pushing him into different extremes .” So yes, it was the most challenging [film I've done] and I relished those experiences.
We are used to seeing you in very complex characters, are we likely to see up lighten up in a comedy or a romance?
DiCaprio: You mean lighten up in general (laughs). I don’t know really, I just respond to what I read. But what I read in these roles are characters that have moved me emotionally in some respect and it is very much a throwback to what moved me in the cinema at a very early age. These are the types of characters that I felt emotionally connected. And I think that you really feel that you arrived there or done that role that satisfies that. I am driven to be able to someday in my mind or try to get close to the great performers that I have seen in cinema from the years past. I don’t know whether that hunger or thirst will ever been quenched. I would like to try other genres and I look forward to it, but it just depends on what moves me emotionally.
What was it like working with such long time actor and icon Max Von Sydow?
DiCaprio: It was incredible working with Max. The sequence where I interrogate him and he interrogates me, it depends which way you work at it. It was only the back of his head you had to see and his voice bellowing through that armchair, just felt a chill going down your spine. He just got such a comfort level in the way that he performs that can only come from years of unbelieveable work. And has such a belielf in what he does, it was chilling to work with him. He is apart of cinema’s history, he should revired as that and respected as that. He’s a genius.
In the dark tone of making the film, did your own personality change? Did you ever worry about going too far?
DiCaprio: For one reason or another I have to say particually for this film, there was a somber mood, going home everyday, there were quite emotionally extremes and it is the nature of the character going through those emotional trauma, his history. And it is hard for those types of thins to rub off, but for the most part, I do like to lock myself away from most people during filming at the time. And so I wouldn’t necessarily get much of a reaction, as I was mostly alone.
There were moments of moments towards the end of filming that we had sequences where there was a certain lapse, understanding were I was because we kept pushing this guy further and further during the day we were acting out a traumatic scene, that was either a dream or reality for this guy. I remember saying to Marty “where am I? What am I doing right now? Whats going on right now?” [He would say] “Just don’t worry, we will do the scene again, take it one more time, and keep pushing it.” And you know it is great to have a guide or a mentor, somebody that you do trust in situations like that, because you are make yourself vulunerable and you need to have somebody there that will ultimately guide you as an actor and your character and to not push you to extremes that might be overly sentimental, might be too schmaltzy as we say. So through the years we worked together, that trust level was there and I am glad to do this character and this film quite specifically with Marty as the filmmaker.
See Leonardo DiCaprio in Shutter Island, being his usual intense self this Friday February 19th!