Leonardo DiCaprio has added his voice to the chorus of crew members of The Revenant describing the apocalyptic nature of the shoot, saying that the movie contained, ‘30 or 40 sequences that were some of the most difficult things [he’s] ever had to do’.
Alejandro González Iñárritu’s upcoming movie is set during a brutal winter on the frontier of 19th century North America in which DiCaprio’s character gets betrayed and abandoned for dead by his companions following a bear attack; after which he has to use all of his skills to cling to life on his quest for revenge and redemption. The other frontiersmen are played by Domhall Gleeson, Will Poulter, and Tom ‘this movie is now instantly better’ Hardy.
The brutality of the shoot has been well documented, with crew members exiting the project; continent-spanning searches for snow; actors being dragged nude across ice and submerged in freezing water; a budget that ballooned from $95 million to $135 million; and visionary cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki’s decision to shoot only using natural light; but this is the first time that Leo himself has piped up.
The Revenant is due out December 25th, and, as most commentators have already pointed out, will most likely be a serious contender come Oscar-time; partly for Iñárritu and Lubezki, but also for The Man Without An Oscar (as the internet would have you call him).
So in that spirit, and knowing full well the ire that this might raise, this would then seem an opportune time to point out that Leo is not that great of an actor.
No, no, put down your pitchforks and un-rage-spit your coffee. Instead join me on this painful but necessary journey, and step by step we’ll get through it OK.
First, let’s get past all this Oscar silliness. The internet has been weeping into its collective beverage for years about the apparent crime that is an Oscar-less Leo. Taking the importance of an Academy Award at face value, let’s have a little look at some other great talents that The Academy has never deemed worthy of victory (supporting roles included):
Ed Norton; Brad Pitt; Glenn Close; Johnny Depp; Ian McKellen; Amy Adams; Bill Murray; Robert Downey Jr; Harrison Ford; Samuel L. Jackson ; Johh Malkovich; Ralph Fiennes; Ed Harris; Gary freaking Oldman!
And now for a list of those without even a nomination to their name:
Steve Buscemi; Jeff Daniels; Alan Rickman; Mia Farrow; Donald Sutherland; Marilyn Monroe; John Cusack; Jim Carrey; Ewan McGregor.
Look at all those incredibly talented, (mostly) white (mostly) dudes who’ve never carried home that prestigious gold statuette! It’s arbitrary, and Leonardo DiCaprio certainly isn’t by any means the most notable example of a major player going unrecognized.
Right then, with that put to bed, let’s continue with this Perfectly Objective analysis of Leo’s thespian shortcomings. Specifically, his one main one. But it’s a huge one. Bigger than that giant crevasse slowly growing in the middle of his forehead, which I think was once a frown that was meant to denote intensity, but now threatens to overshadow the rest of his features when it comes to emoting.
DiCaprio is a perfectly serviceable actor who would most likely do very well as a supporting player. But by nature of being one of the biggest movie stars in the world he’s constantly being thrust into the centre of the spotlight. For almost two decades since Titanic he has played the main character of basically every movie that he’s been in. The one where he didn’t? Django Unchained. His best performance.
I respect him for emerging from that colossal steaming pile of sinking horse manure that was Titanic and wanting to make movies that are actually Good; and Martin Scorsese’s endorsement, even in his latter years, gets him points too. But — and here is the crux of the matter — if there is an actor working today who disappears less into his roles than Leo I’d like to hear it. And no, people like Sam ‘pavement excitement’ Worthington are not up for discussion here. This is about people who are generally regarded highly as actors.
Leo, in every role, cannot help radiating just how much he is ACTING. When he’s on screen I never see anyone else up there; I don’t see Jordan Belfort, or Jay Gatsby, or Cobb, or Frank Wheeler, or Billy Costigan, or Frank Abagnale Jr. I only ever see Leo, frantically preparing off-camera between takes; academically analyzing; never disappearing.
Contrast this with a few other, similar-calibre folk (many of whom appeared in the Oscar-less list above): Joaquin Phoenix, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Kate Winslet, Robert Downey Jr., Denzel Washington, Don Cheadle, Brad Pitt, Hugh Jackman, Cate Blanchett, Tom Hardy, Matthew McConaughey, Amy Adams, Forest Whitaker, Scarlett Johansson, Jamie Foxx, Charlize Theron, Meryl Streep… These are big, big names. And yet, most of the time, they manage to disappear into their roles. A feat which, I fear, will forever elude Leonardo DiCaprio.
So, whether he gets his Oscar come next year, or not, please, Hollywood, start casting him in more supporting roles. Lessen the glare. Let it all breathe. Give that forehead crevasse a chance to relax and recede.