Leonardo DiCaprio is known for the wildly different films he has starred in from ‘Inception’, to ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’, to ‘Titanic’. For his first film since his 2016 Oscar for ‘The Revenant’, he stars with Brad Pitt in Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’. The movie steps back in time to Los Angeles in 1969. A time where all is shifting, as TV star Rick Dalton (DiCaprio) and his long-time stunt double Cliff Booth (Pitt) make their way around an industry they hardly recognise anymore.
RSNG spoke to DiCpario him to find out more about Tarantino’s ninth outing as writer/ director, and what he thinks the future of movies is in a world dominated by superhero sequels…
RSNG Is this Quentin Tarantino’s tribute to Hollywood’s Golden Age of cinema?
LEONARDO DICAPRIO ‘Yes, I would say in many ways this is his tribute to Hollywood and also a tribute to the heroes who made it so. It was the beginning of a new era, the country was changing, the world was changing, and the undertone was the dark cloud, which was washing over everything in stages.’
‘It’s also an homage to the actors of Los Angeles and those who go to Hollywood, and struggle to get by and make a name for themselves. The ones who try to find work every single day – this film shows the slices of their lives as they attempt to find a way in.’
‘Not only that, but they are also voyeurs who wanted to be a part of the movie industry, looking for any job which would make them part of the industry. Quentin looks at the glory, thinking about all that it could be, or could have been, in their lives.’
RSNG What is so unique about this movie?
LD ‘It's a slice of life, it’s a day in the life of all of these people – the people that are within and without and certainly the undercurrent of the Manson Girls, and how that really changed America and culture forever.’
‘I mean, 1969 was not just a seminal year as far as changing cinematic history, but the world. So many radical movements and things were happening during that time period.’
‘We all know we wouldn’t be sitting here doing what we are doing had we not had that one moment of luck’
RSNG You have obviously worked with Quentin Tarantino before. What was it like working with him on this movie?
LD ‘Well, the first thing that he had Brad and I do after we had read the script was to understand this immense backstory and biography of, not only our individual characters, but of our relationship together, our history.’
‘We play two outsiders in the industry who are making their way in it and trying day by day, to be successful. So, having grown up in this town and getting all of that reference and being able to work with Brad, on the first day there was just this automatic understanding of who these types of men were and how they relied on one another implicitly to survive and navigate through this industry.’
RSNG It comes across very clearly that you like working with Tarantino...
LD ‘For me, Quentin Tarantino is a really special director, not just a great film director and this is a great film about the industry, which refers romantically to Hollywood. It’s a style of film that you won’t see very often at all and it’s a movie about making a movie, really. It reveals the culture in this industry, and it is really special and shows who were the heroes of the heroes.’
‘I think that whenever Quentin Tarantino calls you and whether you are on planet Earth or Mars, you pay attention to him and what he is offering because he is one of the most incredible artistic voices in our industry. Also, you pretty much say ‘yes’ haha!’
RSNG How did Quentin want you to go about your roles? Did he give any freedom whatsoever?
LD ‘He gave us this sort of time warp but also mixed with that Tarantino fairy-tale aspect of it. It's this nostalgic look back at a time and also what could have been, through the eyes of guys that are on the daily grind, just trying to make ends meet. Our characters rely on each other for everything.’
RSNG Your character seems to be a bit of a difficult role to play, especially with what happens in the movie?
LD ‘That’s true, because with a lot of the Westerns that the character did, he did them too seriously and it’s possible that he wanted to become immersed in the story, and he does the role as seriously as he possibly can. But it’s also a way of breaking the codes, because he is a guy from a working-class background. He is fighting with his own demons and the words he speaks reflect his life, in a sense.’
RSNG Do you sometimes feel illegitimate as actors?
LD ‘Yeah, absolutely. I think everybody at one point in their career definitely has felt like that. I always felt when I was starting out that the movie industry was this mythical world where the Fairy Godmother would come to your house and pluck you and say: “You are now accepted.”
‘We all know that we wouldn’t be sitting here doing what we are doing had we not had that one moment of luck. I think that Rick Dalton – the character that I play in the film – is battling with that for his entire lifetime.’
‘Try to measure yourself up to some of the greats and then start from there’
RSNG Is this a film about the short-lived era of things?
LD ‘The only difference with us actors is that what we do is burnt into the celluloid history for all time – that’s the cool thing about making movies. That’s the first thing that I say to anybody who talks about movies or asks me about them for advice: “Start to watch them.” Go and see what has been done before you get into this industry because there is a pretty high marker for what has been done in the past. Try to measure yourself up to some of the greats and then start from there.’
‘I am a huge fan of this artform, and I endlessly, continuously watch movies and I am always blown away by what’s been done in cinema’s past.’
RSNG You were in another film that you called ‘unique,’ and which you won an Oscar for – The Revenant?
LD ‘Yeah, that was a movie which was all in the elements and I endorse films like that still being made because it’s very important. I see that cinema is going more towards the small-screen and to television – there is so much great television right now. We need films which aren’t just CGI spectacle, you know, tentpole superhero films.’
‘Films where you embrace something very unique from the vision of the incredibly masterful and talented directors that we have today, such as Tarantino, (Alejandro Gonzalez) Iñárritu and (Martin) Scorsese – for example. That’s what Alejandro did with The Revenant. He used cinema on a grand scale and being very transformative about it.’
‘In this industry, the films are becoming small and independent films. But for the large budget movies, studios only really want to finance something where they know they are going to get a guaranteed audience in, or some sort of character or a recreation of another film which they feel will guarantee their investment.’
RSNG Was the film a big risk to do in the first place?
LD ‘The Revenant was a huge risk on a massively artistic scale, and we had to find financiers who were really willing to believe in the vision, and the belief that it was a great piece of art. Unfortunately, if things keep going as they are, we are not going to see many of these types of films.’
‘I think that theatres are going to be an interesting thing in the future and it’s always a communal experience for an audience to feel like they are together and a part of something. But how much room there is for these types of films, which are not sort of traditional, commercial films, which are beautiful spectacles and pieces of art. I don’t know… I don’t know what the future is going to be like.’
WHAT NEXT? Watch the trailer for Once Upon A Time In Hollywood.