Thursday, May 16, 2013

Doc Hollywood: Leonardo DiCaprio

Hi, Leo! Come on in and have a seat.

You super psyched about Gatsby? Well, that makes one of us. I’m sure Baz Luhrmann will figure out this "love" thing one of these days.

So, let’s cut to the chase. You’re a versatile actor and a great movie star. I’ll see any movie you’re in because you are in it. But you’re wasting your time on some of these movies, man. They don’t need you. They could be played by a lot of people and they’re doing nothing for your legacy as an actor. It’s frustrating to watch because you have more control over your career than just about any other actor working today.

You’re a greaser. Stop acting like a soc! You’re like Paul Newman trapped in a Robert Redford cage.
Bottom line is that I want to see the Leonardo DiCaprio with fire, with a spark, the twinkle in your eyes. Be expressive! Be rebellious! Say what you want about Titanic – you’re one charismatic mother-f***er in that movie! Too often I see no joy in your performances.

I ran a quick Health Assessment for you. I hope you don’t mind. I’m not judging these by the movie’s quality, just your performances.

Okay let’s look at the 'more' column. Worth noting is that three of them are supporting performances. And I’d argue that This Boy’s Life, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Django Unchained make up three of your five best acting jobs. My two favorite performances of yours are The Departed and Catch Me If You Can (by far your best). In The Departed, you are like a raw nerve. It’s the one collaboration of yours with Martin Scorsese where he seems to know what to do with you. Catch Me If You Can is the ultimate showcase of what’s special about you – you’re youthful, vibrant, energetic, and rascally. It’s all there. You’re so rarely allowed anymore to be charming. It’s a damn shame.
And now for the 'less' column. I see some trends:

1) You are playing too many similar characters. The Aviator and J. Edgar: both men of high position who were crazy. Shutter Island and Inception: both men haunted by past trauma and difficult, dead wives. Body of Lies and Blood Diamond: both men who are loners and deadly field operatives. Don’t double dip the chip, son!

2) Enough with the damn voices. I’ve never seen an actor try as many dialects to no avail as you have. Sometimes it’s not a big deal, but I’d say in 75% of your roles you do something with your voice. You’re not that good at it.

3) Martin Scorsese is one of your problems. I know you don’t want to hear it. He’s your boy, but I’ve never seen a director-actor relationship that’s ever done as little to bring out the star’s talent. It’s going way worse than the Scorsese-De Niro partnership.

So, where do we go from here? Here’s my prescription:

1) Work with up-and-coming directors:  I want to see you working with directors that have something to prove. Someone catching a tide (Jeff Nichols, Derek Cianfrance, Rian Johnson) or licking their wounds from a commercial failure (Kim Jee-Woon, Andrew Dominik, The Wachowski’s). Too often you work with directors that are respected (smart move) but have nothing to prove and it results in some of yours and their worst movies – Scorsese (Gangs of New York), Eastwood (J. Edgar), Scott (Body of Lies), Mendes (Revolutionary Road).
2) Avoid movies where you have to carry the weight of the plot: Inception was a great movie, but you are not a reason it’s great. You looked totally bored. There was too much exposition you needed to lift for you to have time to get yours as an actor. This seems to happen to you a lot. You know what was so great about your performance and role in Django Unchained? You didn’t have to drive the plot, so you could just play a role and have fun character riffs. As awful of a man Calvin Candie was, you seemed to be having a ball playing him and it was fun to watch you really go for it. In that speech at the dinner table? Jeez, you were like a rabid animal or a man possessed. It was so great!

3) Play fun characters or jerks: You’re almost typecast at this point for intense acting jobs, which seems like they’re taking a lot out of you. So lighten up buddy! Don’t take yourself so seriously. Do a big, dumb summer blockbuster like a Fast and Furious movie. Hell, do a fucking Hangover-type movie for G-D’s sakes. I am a little bummed that back in the day you didn’t do American Psycho. As evidenced by your playing a bad guy in Django Unchained, I think you could have done really well with that.

4) Tap into your mega-celebrity: You’re very well-known for being an insanely rich playboy celebrity, although not of your own doing. I give you a lot of respect for still trying to maintain the movie star mystery of the old days. I think you need to use some of that to your advantage. You were quoted as saying the following: “In this business nothing is as dangerous and as feared as loneliness. You shoot films in the most remote areas of the world; you're separated from your family and your friends. And at some point you're in your hotel room looking at yourself in the mirror and you realize how lonely you are and how far you are from leading a normal life. That is quite a punch in the gut.” That sounds like Lost in Translation to me. I want to see your version of long as it’s not The Great Gatsby.

Ok, I think that’s about all I have for you my friend.

Take care, Leo.  My office is open for you anytime.


  1. Adam...your health assessment is great! Does that mean he should do A What's Eating Gilbert Grape 2? A twenty year reunion with Leo, Johnny, Juliette and the gang.I would watch that.

    It's interesting...even when I don't enjoy the movie I find it hard to not watch Leo on the screen. He's just got some much dang charisma.

    I think I'll go try to hunt down some old Growing Pains episodes and see if he should add more of that to his diet.

    Thanks for the artcle...I always enjoy when the Doctor is in!

  2. Thanks GDiddy! Johnny Depp will actually be the next Doc Hollywood. So it will be a Gilber Grape reunion of sorts.

    He's got the charisma on Growing Pains :-)