Acing Up The Game

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Standing in a packed room full of the world’s press, a slightly flushed yet ecstatic Leonardo Dicaprio clutched his Oscar firmly in his hand as he admitted that this had been his dream. For 25 years now, DiCaprio has appeared in many films and depicted so many roles that it seemed impossible that he had not won the Oscar before. Shweta Bhatia finds out more about the actor’s journey from the boy in ‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape’ to the wild survivor in ‘The Revenant’

Leonardo DiCaprio’s dance with the Best Actor Award began in 1994 with ‘What’s eating Gilbert Grape?’, where he was up against Tommy Lee Jones in ‘The Fugitive’. After playing lead roles in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘Titanic’, he had already made a name for himself that set the bar for his future successes. But that’s not how it really started. DiCaprio, like every actor, struggled his way through the industry to prove his mettle. He started working in Hollywood in1985 as a child actor. Cutting his teeth in television commercials and small parts, he made an appearance in the show ‘Growing Pains’. It was a short part but impactful enough for Hollywood to sit up and take notice.

The unprecedented box office hits for the romantic dramas transformed DiCaprio’s career overnight. But the fact is that it also changed his life. His success was hounded by paparazzi, whose lifestyle was dismissed as that of a party boy and his dalliances with models were suddenly drawing a lot of attention. In an interview with a newspaper, DiCaprio admitted, “my-post Titanic experience was a very empty existence”. His post ‘Titanic’ roles in ‘The Beach’ and ‘The Man in the Iron Mask’ left critics cold and suddenly everyone wondered if he was going to be a ‘one-hit wonder’. But then the actor deployed a new career strategy. When he came out all gritty with Martin Scorsese’s ‘Gangs of New York’ and a smart conman in Steven Spielberg’s ‘Catch Me If You Can’, all debate about his acting abilities had ended. The soulful blue eyed actor went on to play meaty roles in dozens of other films but despite numerous accolades from critics and fans alike, the Academy eluded the actor for years. Being the world’s favourite, many wondered why the actor never won. However, that never dampened his morale.

Along the trail, DiCaprio has always paid tribute to his parents for supporting his dream and has showed his gratitude to them for listening to an overly ambitious 13 year old who wanted to go on auditions every day after school. His support system also consists of a really close group of friends in the industry, a string of strong
relationships that he has established over the years. His friends are equally famous but are his closest company. Tobey Maguire has been the actor’s best friend for 25 years, after they met at an audition in the late 80s. Maguire, in an interview, had shared that they were like any other buddies who laughed and chatted a lot. They are both fans of basketball and play the sport quite often. DiCaprio has always maintained that every single choice he’s made, he’s talked to Maguire about it and vice versa. “We’ve had endless conversations about certain projects and argued with one another and supported one another along the way,” DiCaprio said. His other confidante is none other than his popular co-star Kate Winslet.

After receiving a standing ovation from the star-studded crowd at the Dolby Theatre, a very tearful Kate Winslet warmly embraced her dear friend on his way to collect the coveted award. DiCaprio and Winslet were both 21 when they made Titanic and they have been friends since then. DiCaprio states that one of the things that keeps them together is ‘a sense of humour’. They claim to laugh at the same things. Together, as per DiCaprio, they have a special magic. DiCaprio worked with Winslet again on the 2008 film, Revolutionary Road. He was the one that gave her away at her third wedding to Ned Rocknroll. Amongst these two, Mark Wahlberg, Jonah Hill, Zac Efron, Joseph Gordon- Levitt, Tom Hardy and Naomi Campbell are part of his group who are, as he claims, important beings of his life.

For years now, we have all seen memes and pictures mocking the actor about how he never won the Academy Award after being nominated for so most of his amazing performances in so many movies. Over the next decade of his life in Hollywood, DiCaprio sought out projects that brought him together with true artists. Working with the likes of Christopher Nolan (Inception), Baz Luhrmann (The Great Gatsby) and Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained). He soon became the actor who was rewarded for his risk-taking ability. Comedy or drama, he had done it all. He is the actor who gets into the mind and soul of the character and brings it to life on the screen leaving everyone mesmerized and moved. His latest, ‘The Revenant’ continued the tradition. Despite it’s bleak subject matter where the man sets out to survive and seek vengeance, he managed to, yet once again, make hearts swoon.

Critics were left cold by the scenes where the actor claws himself across the snowy landscape but viewers recognized it as the blistering portrait of survival. When the movie began it’s making, media outlets feasted on reports of tension and trauma on the sets. The movie was very difficult to make. The weather conditions, the minute attention to details, the actor having to hold the whole movie on his own, lugging around a heavy bear skin, made it the most difficult project the actor was a part of. DiCaprio, as usual, passed the test with flying colors. It had all the elements; a remarkable artist mixed with Alejandro González Iñárritu’s (director of The Revenant) ambitious vision. “This was true storytelling. We really got to have a collaborative experience together and this was a journey that I’ll never forget with Alejandro. It took up such a large portion of our lives, but as a result we have a great film to look back on for years to come,” DiCaprio said after the release.

DiCaprio finally picked up his first Oscar for The Revenant this year giving the most humbling speech, which melted hearts all over. Even after all the nominations in the past, the actor was shocked and extremely grateful. Further more, he was just glad that he got a chance to talk about his other passion; the environment and climate change urging viewers to not take our planet for granted.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s hard work, humbled character, resilience and his love for his passion helped him achieve his longstanding dream. As his latest movie proves, the road he chose to take made all the difference.

Photograph by: Mike Marsland/WireImage

Cover Photo by: Henri Tullio/ Contour by Getty Images