Leonardo DiCaprio is one of Hollywood’s A-listers, earning his first Oscar for the 2015 film The Revenant. Catapulting to fame in his role as Jack Dawson in the 1997 blockbuster Titanic, DiCaprio can basically write his own ticket for whatever movie meets his interest.
When embarking on his acting career, the Oscar winner described a very unorthodox approach in his audition for a role with the legendary Robert DeNiro.
‘Titanic’ star starts on the small screen
Though DiCaprio is known for his wide range of film roles, his acting career began on television. The actor recalled prodding his parents to take him on auditions.
“There were casting directors that wouldn’t accept me because I was a break dancer, or I had the wrong haircut,” DiCaprio told Deadline in 2016. “But it really was me pushing my parents to give me some sort of way out of the world that I was in.”
Once he got his chance to work on the big screen, DiCaprio noted how different acting on television was from film.
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“I came from television, a sitcom where everyone’s hanging out, joking, laughing, and then, ‘Action,’ and you just roll right into the scene,” The Departed star recalled. “I did a year of Growing Pains, and they let me out to go do this movie. … it was like a culture shock. It was like being in the big leagues, right away.”
Leonardo DiCaprio lands a part in ‘This Boy’s Life’
In 1993, DiCaprio starred with DeNiro and Ellen Barkin in This Boy’s Life. The Once Upon A Time In Hollywood remembered studying films of the iconic actor and directing legend Martin Scorsese to prepare for his role.
“I came onto that set having seen everything Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro had ever done, every single film,” DiCaprio said. “I remember, at 15, putting myself through this self-inflicted cinema history lesson, obsessively sitting in my bedroom watching every VHS tape I could rent.”
On set with DeNiro, DiCaprio was able to see the actor perform on a daily basis and learn from the master.
“I remember how seriously he took everything, how focused he was,” the Oscar winner shared. “You’d have to sometimes realize you were in the scene, because you’re just watching him do an improv riff.”
‘Growing Pains’ actor auditions
Describing his younger self, DiCaprio admitted he was not the most demure teenager.
“I really was this wild child. Very outspoken, ballsy, and I think that’s probably why I got the role,” he told Deadline. “It was probably always the little guy thing too that helped in the audition. In school I would always talk back, and if kids were bigger than me, I’d get in people’s faces.”
Recalling his audition for the part of Toby in the film based on the novel by Tobias Wolff, DiCaprio took a very unorthodox approach to his reading of the role.
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“I remember there was this mustard jar sequence, and just thinking to myself … I’ve got to do something…memorable,’” DiCaprio explained. “I went in and they were doing the mustard jar sequence, and [De Niro]’s like, ‘Is it empty, is it empty?’ And I just stood up and threw my chair down, or something, and screamed at him, ‘No, it’s not empty!’”
Apparently, DiCaprio’s spin on method acting did the trick. “Bob had this smirk on his face, and just started slowly busting up, laughing in my face,” the Wolf of Wall Street star said. “And then he looked at everybody else, and the whole room starting laughing. … Bob was like, ‘That kid was…there’s something interesting there.’ And they brought me back.”
And the rest, as they say, is cinematic history.
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