Leo, Leo. Where to start? Perhaps with: we forgive your playboy womanising of hot, leggy supermodels. You know what, I think we’re ok with it. And frankly, if you can look cool puffing on an e-cig while sporting a checked flat cap, you deserve the ladies. Plus you’re doing all these great things to help save the planet, right? – and who doesn’t dig a hot A-lister-cum-environmentalist?
But trivialities aside, you’ve earned my respect in so many ways I’ve bestowed upon you the title of ‘Favourite Actor Ever’. (Yep, massive.) Because, well, it’s more than just your acting. It’s your shrewd, purposeful film choices. I like that they’re philosophically-driven, often with an ethical bent, and always based around telling a great story. I’m talking Blood Diamond. Epic biopics. Arnie Grape…
And then there’s your ostensible lust for challenge. You’re ballsy. Bold roles doesn’t faze you. Some of them look exhausting, too. But do you collapse under the pressure of these parts? Never. In fact, you only soar higher. Hats off, DiCaprio. Hats off.
Here are my top five favourite Leo performances…
‘BILLY’, THE DEPARTED (2006)
Even when he’s placed in the centre of a masterful Martin Scorsese cast, DiCaprio manages to outshine every one of his co-stars. Doesn’t matter whether it’s Nicholson, Damon, Sheen, Baldwin, or even the brilliant Mark Walhberg (who’s AWESOME in this film)… Leo’s the one to watch. Playing a young, Boston state undercover cop on a mission to infiltrate the Irish mob, DiCaprio brings a maturity and never-before-seen grit to his screen persona which has him eye-to-eye with Nicholson’s fearsome Frank Costello…
Billy Costigan: You sit there with a mass murderer. A mass murderer. Your heart rate is jacked, and your hand… steady. That’s one thing I figured out about myself in prison. My hand does not shake… ever.
DANNY ARCHER, BLOOD DIAMOND (2006)
Set in war-stricken Sierra Leone against a backdrop of corruption, diamond mining and child soldiers, the film’s message is poignant and the cinematography; stunning. DiCaprio’s portrayal of Zimbabwean mercenary, Danny Archer is compelling and convincing from start to finish – he stands tall even against the brilliant Djimon Hounsou (whose performance as a forlorn father is staggeringly good). Leo nails the South African accent as well – which is no easy feat, while also raising the bar on his dramatic skills, and finding great chemistry with the gorgeous Jennifer Connolly. Then of course Edward Zwick is behind the lens which is never going to hurt.
HOWARD HUGHES, THE AVIATOR (2004)
I never thought this movie would sustain my interest for the nearly 3 hour running time – even with Scorsese at the helm. It depicts the early career of a guy I knew little about and I wasn’t really feeling the plane theme. Turns out, the personal quirks of legendary aviator Howard Hughes can be bizarrely entertaining. Or maybe I was just at the mercy of Leo’s onscreen magnetism again? (Probably both.) It is an interesting story though about an interesting man, and DiCaprio ’s portrayal of the 1940s visionary is inspired. His performance shows flair, passion and maturity – and ultimately earned him an Oscar nod. (He lost to Jamie Foxx for Ray Charles. I was furious.)
J. EDGAR (2011)
Another biopic which I thought had the potential to send me to sleep was J. Edgar. (I mean, this man had no charisma.) The famed FBI director was guarded, monomaniacal, generally quite unattractive, and with little to no social life. Yet Leonardo unearths an energy and authenticity in his performance that grows with every scene. Could any other actor have done the same? I doubt it. When the talent of this 38 year old can shine through make up, false teeth, prosthetics, dental implants, toupees and god knows what else… you know you’re witnessing something special. Plus it was the first time he’d hooked up with director Clint Eastwood, so it was always a must-see.
FRANK ABAGNALE, CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (2002)
Playing a 16-year-old identity-thieving rascal, Leonardo puts his unique stamp on the role of Frank Abagnale Jr – a real-life con-artist who successfully conned millions of dollars as a Pan Am pilot, doctor, and legal prosecutor. It’s 140 minutes of pure ‘cat-and-mouse’ swashbuckling, crime-action drama, with DiCaprio at the centre of the fun. Leo’s likeability pulls us straight in and before we know it we’re rooting for the little bank fraudster. Again, it’s that trademark charisma and confidence which places this man in a league of his own – even aside acting greats, Tom Hanks and Christopher Walken.
So there’s my top 5. But I know what you’re thinking: What about What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, Basketball Diaries, Romeo and Juliet, Gangs of New York! .. dare I say it, Titanic?
What would you have had in your top 5 Leo movies?