Leonardo DiCaprio: 13 Reasons He’s the Man For All Seasons

 

He’ll be forever considered one of Hollywood’s iconic leading men and as he turns 40 this week, Leonardo DiCaprio certainly has earned a big piece of cake. Here’s a baker’s dozen of riveting roles from Leo that have us wanting more while his mind blowing career shows no signs of anything less than spectacular…

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Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street -2013

Might as well start with his most recent work that we’re still intoxicated from. The Wolf of Wall Street garnered DiCaprio two Oscar nominations for best actor and producer and while Leo still searches for his first golden statue to call his own, his portrayal of real-life stock broker Jordan Belfort was another jaw dropper. Granted, sex and drugs are excellent accessories for a film, especially when you couple them with mass wealth and a healthy dose of law breaking. Having said this, our man hit it out of the park while also giving us a glimpse of why the US government discontinued Quaaludes in 1985.

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Opposite Jack Nicholson in The Departed – 2006

It would be easy to just blend into a movie that includes Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen and Alec Baldwin however when you’re Leonardo DiCaprio, things go a little bit differently. Martin Scorsese’s mob tribute in Boston put DiCaprio as the catalyst who flips the plot on its ear in this epic feature that took home four Academy awards. The Departed is a great go-to and always within reach in our personal library.

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Howard Hughes in The Aviator – 2004

We will always associate him with period pieces and his transformation as Howard Hughes in The Aviator is a perfect example of what appears to be a seamless adaption to taking on such a complex character. The role brought an Oscar nomination along with it. While Leo wouldn’t take home the award, the film as a whole won five Oscars and was surely helped with a costume budget of $2 million. Scorsese left no stone unturned in capturing the early years of the legendary director and aviator from the late 1920s to the mid-1940s.

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Teddy Daniels in Shutter Island – 2010

In case you haven’t noticed, Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese work a lot together, including this thriller in Shutter Island. Leo and Marty have partnered on five films together and you better believe we’ll acknowledge all of them before this column is done. This is one of the those films whose ending is so shocking that you look forward to watching it again to see what you missed. The plot of an investigator tracking down a missing mental patient on an island makes for the expected good time going to the movies.

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Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby – 2013

2013 was a good year for Leo. It not only produced The Wolf of Wall Street but the year also made way for The Great Gatsby. Director Baz Luhrmann (whom DiCaprio teamed up with in 1996 for Romeo + Juliet) recreated F. Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel with breathtaking aesthetics that helped the film take home Oscars for Best Achievement in Production Design and Costume Design. Leonardo gave another performance that had you wondering who else could have pulled off the role while supporting the old adage, “Women want to be with him. Men want to be him.”

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Danny Archer in Blood Diamond – 2006

Blood Diamond was DiCaprio’s second project of 2006 (along with The Departed) and is certain to make you feel terrible about how the diamond industry cultivates the stone’s demands from western Africa. It’s a white knuckle ride of a movie and this role brought him another Oscar nomination for leading actor.

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Jack Dawson in Titanic – 1997

He’ll always be linked to Titanic and James Cameron’s 11-time Academy award winning love story aboard the doomed sea liner. The movie that has grossed $2.19 billion US dollars (that’s with a “B”), launched DiCaprio into the stratosphere that he now holds court in.

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Jim Carroll in The Basketball Diaries – 1995

In a word, The Basketball Diaries is gnarly. Watch Leonardo’s portrayal of a heroin-addicted high school basketball star and see a young, pre-Titanic Leo already taking on roles of a challenging nature and subject matter before his talent became more obvious with the projects we’ve already identified. Also joining him in this teenage free fall is an equally new talent to the screen in Mark Wahlberg.

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Calvin Candie in Django Unchained – 2012

Leave it to Quentin Tarantino to cast DiCaprio as a brutal Mississippi plantation owner in Django Unchained. It was the first time he played a villain since The Man in the Iron Mask (1998) and he was so uncomfortable with how racist his character was that Tarantino had to convince him to be as menacing as possible, saying that if he didn’t take it all the way that people would hold it against him forever. It wasn’t always a comfortable character for Leo to endorse. During the filming of one of the dinner scenes, he had to stop the scene because he was having “a difficult time” using so many racial slurs. Samuel L. Jackson then pulled him aside telling him, “This is just another Tuesday for us.”

In another instance of DiCaprio’s passion and drive, when his character smashes the palm of his hand on the dinner table in a scene, he broke a glass under his hand and really began to bleed. DiCaprio ignored it, stayed in character, and continued with the scene. This take was the one used in the film.

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Frank Abagnale Jr. in Catch Me If You Can – 2002

This was a fun movie and another true story with the lead role reenacted by a guy who does it better than anyone. It makes sense that Leo consumed a personality that impersonated an airline pilot, a doctor and a lawyer. Does DiCaprio get out of bed for anything less than that? Catch Me If You Can and the brilliance of Steven Spielberg gave Leonardo a head start before putting Tom Hanks in constant pursuit of the infamous con man, Frank Abignale Jr. Christopher Walken received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. According to costume designer Mary Zophres, there were about 130 ‘day-players’ (bit part actors) and 3,000-4,000 background extras employed, and Leonardo Di had 100 costume changes, through the film. This is also a part of our personal collection that needs to be dusted off for another viewing.

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Amsterdam Vallon in Gangs of New York – 2002

The first project Scorsese and DiCaprio came together on is Gangs of New York. The 10-time Oscar nominated film partnered with Catch Me If You Can as the other 2002 project from Leo. When the film was first conceived in 1978, Scorsese originally planned to cast Dan Aykroyd as Amsterdam Vallon and John Belushi as Bill ‘The Butcher’ Cutting. The project fell apart after Belushi died. A cast reshuffle had Mel Gibson as Amsterdam Vallon and Willem Dafoe as The Butcher. Eventually, Leonardo was cast as Amsterdam Vallon and Daniel Day-Lewis was cast as The Butcher.

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Arnie Grape in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape – 1993

In What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, playing a challenging role as a child with special needs and teamed up with a star like Johnny Depp, Leonardo earned his first Oscar nomination. In preparing for the role, DiCaprio shed some light on his inspiration, “I had to really research to get into the mind of somebody like that. I spent a few days at a home for mentally retarded teens. We just talked and I watched their mannerisms. People have these expectations that mentally retarded children are really crazy, but that isn’t so. It’s refreshing to see them because everything’s so new to them.”

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Cobb in Inception – 2010

Amongst film critics and movie circles in the know, Inception is considered one of the great projects from any decade and any genre. The four-time Academy award winning film is one of director Christopher Nolan’s masterpieces and DiCaprio is at the center of it all.

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We’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that DiCaprio’s big break in front of a national audience came with his role on Growing Pains. This brought some much needed visibility and exposure that enhanced his opportunities for the resume he has now.