GQ (Australia) - - INSIDE -

The best ac­tors are hun­ters who know the best roles are out there, wait­ing to be run down and rav­aged. The best ac­tors start young, make mis­takes and build knowl­edge from er­rors. The best ac­tors do their best liv­ing in the role. The best ac­tors must act or go mad. Right now, Leonardo Dicaprio is king of the cel­lu­loid jun­gle. No one hunts and kills like Leo. Forget the fs­cal crunch of his $34m-per-movie pay packet (not count­ing per­cent­ages), Dicaprio’s true power lies in his abil­ity to cher­ryp­ick the roles he wants to play with a sin­gle phone call. If Leo arches an eye­brow of in­ter­est in a project, it can guar­an­tee a flm is made. His con­fr­ma­tion in the cast can open the cof­fers to many mil­lions in bud­get and open the doors to all man­ner of A-graders want­ing to share a set with him. The sheer power of Leo’s tal­ent pumps mus­cle into puny scripts – his weight be­hind the words making each a weapon. Yet for all his big-screen vir­tu­os­ity, the real Leonardo Dicaprio is an enigma. Like Gatsby, he keeps his true self sup­pressed. Hav­ing acted since ado­les­cence, Dicaprio’s iden­tity re­mains elu­sive be­hind a gad­about Sun King fa­cade. It’s not that he strug­gles to live nor­mally be­yond his work­ing life in flm – there’s a Kraken sac-worth of ink ev­ery day de­voted to his looks, ex­ploits, con­quests and char­i­ties – it’s sim­ply that he’s an un­mar­ried, child­less man who walks on a cush­ion of air cre­ated by the gasps of those whis­per­ing his name. Maybe that’s his magic. Leo is more than a feel­ing. In fact, right now, Leo’s here to save the world.

NOVEM­BER 11. RE­MEM­BRANCE DAY. DATE OF THE WHIT­LAM DIS­MISSAL. The day Ned Kelly was hanged. Also, in 2015, the 41st birth­day of one Leonardo Wil­helm Dicaprio – ac­tor, en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist and more. The man GQ meets to­day is just that – a man. At long last the squir­relly cute, easy-to-irk, hard-to-hate boy won­der we’ve come to know over 25 years and 28 flms has van­ished – in his place stands a man with hair on his chin, scars on his face and steel in his eyes. This is a re­lief – not for fans of Leo the heart-throb, but for fans of Dicaprio the ac­tor and, cru­cially, for the man him­self. Since his 1993 turn in What’s Eat­ing Gil­bert Grape, he’s been on a hard slog to outrun his pretty-boy looks. Along the way Dicaprio has used the gifts be­stowed on him by fate (with help from the genes passed down by Ge­orge, his comic artist fa­ther and Irmelin, his le­gal sec­re­tary mother) to ex­cel­lent ef­fect. Af­ter prov­ing his act­ing chops as a teenager with de­vel­op­men­tal dis­abil­i­ties in What’s Eat­ing Gil­bert Grape, he won hearts in Romeo + Juliet and Ti­tanic in the ’90s. In the early 2000s he charmed crit­ics in Catch Me If You Can and The Avi­a­tor. He then man­aged to chisel cred­i­bil­ity from parts in Martin Scors­ese’s Gangs of New York, The De­parted and Shut­ter Is­land be­fore ma­tur­ing to man­hood in Christopher Nolan’s In­cep­tion and Quentin Tarantino’s Django Un­chained. This evo­lu­tion reaches new lev­els in his new­est and, to his mind, tough­est flm in his canon. In­spired by a 2002 novel by Michael Punke, The Revenant is a bru­tal, sweep­ing, 156-minute fron­tier epic of en­durance and sur­vival from Ale­jan­dro Iñár­ritu, the di­rec­tor be­hind last year’s Acad­emy Award-win­ning Bird­man. Dicaprio plays Hugh Glass, a fur trap­ping gun-for-hire who gets am­bushed by shriek­ing scalpers, mauled by a bear and left for dead in the big, end­less white of North Amer­ica circa 1823. “He is an out­sider, a man with an in­dige­nous wife and son who has im­mersed him­self in the nat­u­ral world,” Dicaprio tells GQ of Glass. “The white man is in­fltrat­ing what is, at this time, the equiv­a­lent to the Ama­zon – un­char­tered Amer­i­can ter­ri­tory. And yet there’s a mas­sive in­fux of peo­ple try­ing to ex­tract its nat­u­ral re­sources. It’s pre-gold rush, pre-oil rush. Fur is the nat­u­ral re­source be­ing ex­tracted

Act­ing is more than a feel­ing. It is a busi­ness of blood, call­ing for the most pri­mal emo­tions – love, hate, fear, lust – and de­mand­ing they be writ­ten large, if invisible, in per­for­mance.

for ship­ping to Europe. In­dige­nous peo­ple are mas­sa­cred, trees are cut down. And here’s this char­ac­ter, this last rem­nant of the iconic, mytho­log­i­cal moun­tain man who lives in peace and har­mony with the world in this frst surge of con­fict.” Dicaprio usu­ally hates talk­ing to the press. Luck­ily for us, he loves talk­ing about The Revenant. His reedy all-amer­i­can voice comes from some­where darker, deep in­side – the wristy lit­tle fop of old is now more a man­tis, fold­ing and un­fold­ing a lim­ber frame of wiry mus­cles and stren­u­ously tested mar­row. Look him in the eye and fre. Leo won’t look away. You could call The Revenant ‘a campfre story’, but the truth is Dicaprio eyes his char­ac­ter as a vi­tal his­tor­i­cal fgure, “a sym­bol of the Amer­i­can spirit of sur­vival”. As such, he’s about as real a man as the ac­tor’s ever played. King Leo takes the craft­ing of ev­ery movie mask se­ri­ously – history the stage where he best plays. Film­mak­ing, he adds, “is the great­est, most mov­ing art form in the world. There’s noth­ing that com­pares to it. When a movie’s done right, there’s noth­ing more im­mer­sive.” Lean­ing for­ward in his chair, he la­bels The Revenant his great­est chal­lenge. And if it works (it will), it’ll form his great­est tri­umph. On the sur­face of it, Dicaprio’s life has been a breeze. There have been a couple of near-death ex­pe­ri­ences – a rip­cord that failed to release his parachute and left him fall­ing fast un­til an in­struc­tor in­ter­vened at 5000 feet; an ex­plod­ing plane en­gine fy­ing from New York to Moscow for a con­fer­ence Vladimir Putin or­gan­ised to save the Siberian tiger. But for the most part, the chal­lenges of mod­ern life passed him by. Can he beat and crumb a sch­nitzel? Con­sole a child? Prune a tree or iron a shirt? Truth is, Dicaprio’s a child of Hol­ly­wood – al­beit one who tells tales of grow­ing up on LA’S mean streets. “Mum and I lived at a drug dealer and pros­ti­tute cor­ner,” he’s re­called. “It was pretty ter­ri­fy­ing. I got beat up a lot. I saw peo­ple have sex in al­leys.” But since start­ing his on-screen life at 15, Leo’s lived in a gilded cage where the sun al­ways fnds his face. The fame that goes with suc­cess meant a crazed model also found his face with a bro­ken bot­tle in 2005, ne­ces­si­tat­ing 17 stitches. That same year, an­other ‘un­com­mon’ event: Dicaprio be­gan a re­la­tion­ship with Is­raeli model Bar Rafaeli af­ter meet­ing her at a Las Vegas party for U2. Film­ing The Revenant was a chance to step out­side the Hol­ly­wood bub­ble and test his met­tle as a man, by pit­ting him­self against the el­e­ments. “When you set out to do a flm in the harsh­est of win­ter ter­ri­to­ries, the true wilder­ness with lo­ca­tions miles from civil­i­sa­tion, the flm’s gonna take on a life of its own,” he rhap­sodises. “Ale­jan­dro wanted an im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence and I really be­lieve he’s cap­tured that. This flm is the clos­est thing to a doc­u­men­tary ex­pe­ri­ence I’ve ever had, a real ex­is­ten­tial jour­ney. It’s a very lin­ear, straight­for­ward story but by re­act­ing to the sur­round­ings we’ve made it more ex­treme, harsh and si­mul­ta­ne­ously more pro­found than we ever imag­ined.” It’s a pow­er­ful piece that will chal­lenge. While there are sev­eral Ter­rence Mal­ick-esque mo­ments of ten­der­ness be­tween man and na­ture, an equal num­ber of heinously vi­o­lent scenes erupt through­out – scenes that would make Cor­mac Mccarthy wince. Cue the ex­tended se­quence in which Dicaprio’s Glass is at­tacked, mauled, slashed, slob­bered over and half-eaten by a griz­zly bear. “Ale­jan­dro’s shots are like this wind­ing snake that cap­ture the vast­ness of na­ture but, at the same time, creep in on the char­ac­ters,” says Dicaprio. “There’s an in­ti­macy to the violence in this movie you’ve never seen be­fore. It’s al­most like there’s an­other sense that takes hold of you as an au­di­ence mem­ber that awak­ens all the other senses. You can feel the breath.” Set against the prowl­ing cin­e­matog­ra­phy of gifted Iñár­ritu wing­man, Em­manuel Lubezki, The Revenant (def­ni­tion: ‘a per­son who has re­turned, sup­pos­edly from the dead’) is part Amer­i­can ice western, part en­vi­ron­men­tal erot­ica. Film­ing in the moun­tains of Ar­gentina, Bri­tish Columbia and Alberta, Dicaprio found him­self in mi­nus 30-de­gree con­di­tions en­dur­ing “a mod­ern day heart of dark­ness… a mad, in­tense scram­ble to cap­ture this magic light, this pre­cious hour and a half”. Ei­ther side of that ethereal 90-minute win­dow, he pre­pared as if for a daily the­atre per­for­mance, metic­u­lously re­hears­ing the flm’s elab­o­rate phys­i­cal stunts and prim­ing his newly fer­alised and hor­ri­bly bear-slashed face to fre on cue. It’s not the face end­lessly fawned over in the gos­sip pages. There’s no sign of what Kate Winslet called ‘prob­a­bly the world’s most beau­ti­ful-look­ing man’ or the mes­meric cin­e­matic force de­scribed by di­rec­tor Lasse Hall­ström (“His left eye is very soft and em­pa­thetic, ooz­ing warmth. The right eye is more analysing, more pen­e­trat­ing”). In­stead, it’s a fercely frozen version of the en­ergy Martin Scors­ese likens to that he found in Robert De Niro back in the ’70s: “Leo will give me emo­tion where I least ex­pect it… and he can do it take af­ter take.” The Revenant has Dicaprio on screen for nine-tenths of the flm, a feat made all the more re­mark­able by the fact that he ut­ters only a few dozen lines of di­a­logue and de­liv­ers most of them while strapped wounded and dy­ing to a makeshift gur­ney. Nonethe­less, it’s an in­cred­i­ble per­for­mance. Leo the man

“There’s an in­ti­macy to the violence in this movie you’ve never seen be­fore. It’s al­most like there’s an­other sense that takes hold of you as an au­di­ence mem­ber that awak­ens all the other senses.”

draw­ing on ev­ery fa­cial tic trick in his bag of bril­liance – pop­ping eyes, fur­row­ing brows, curl­ing lips, foam­ing at the mouth and gen­er­ally trans­form­ing that beau­ti­ful clock of his into a roil­ing dial of grief, pain, des­per­a­tion and vengeance. “How do you ex­press emo­tions and give au­di­ences an un­der­stand­ing of a per­son’s strug­gle or jour­ney with­out ar­tic­u­lat­ing al­most any­thing?” Dicaprio asks him­self of such a quest. “You do ma­jor plan­ning,” he an­swers. “You do re­search, you read books. You learn how to sur­vive in the moun­tains. You learn how to cut a bear fur, how to eat a pot­ted mouse and how to make a knife. And then, when na­ture takes over, you have to re­act to sur­round­ings, yet tell the story of this char­ac­ter with­out words. That was some­thing I em­braced. It was nice not to have to learn fve pages of di­a­logue ev­ery day, too. Mostly, though, it was nice to hone in on the sub­tlety of be­ing alone. I mean, how do you act when no­body’s watch­ing you?” For some­one who’s spent three of his four decades as an ac­tor watched by al­most ev­ery­body, it’s a good ques­tion. As Dicaprio hits his peak, per­haps his deep­est legacy is tak­ing shape be­hind the scenes as a war­rior for the en­vi­ron­ment. Con­cur­rent with shoot­ing The Revenant, Dicaprio nar­rated Car­bon, a nine-minute short ex­plor­ing cli­mate change and the frst of four mini-docos in the Green World Ris­ing se­ries. “If na­tional gov­ern­ments won’t take ac­tion, your com­mu­nity can,” he says in Car­bon. “We can move our econ­omy town by town, state by state, to re­new­able en­ergy and a sus­tain­able fu­ture.” He has a long history of sup­port­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal causes through his non-proft Leonardo Dicaprio Foun­da­tion. He voiced and pro­duced the doc­u­men­tary flm The 11th Hour in 2007 and pledged $9.5m to ocean con­ser­va­tion in June 2014. “Any­one who doesn’t be­lieve in cli­mate change is an ab­so­lute di­nosaur,” he sneers. “99.99 per cent of the sci­en­tifc con­sen­sus [states] it is hap­pen­ing. OK, you don’t be­lieve in science. Then maybe the world is fat and maybe there is no grav­ity as well? It just bog­gles my mind how there’s still an ar­gu­ment. But look at the num­bers, man. There’s no ar­gu­ment.” This year, Dicaprio joined 2000 well-monied in­di­vid­u­als and 400 in­sti­tu­tions rep­re­sent­ing a, ahem, ti­tanic $3.5tn of in­vest­ment to join the 50-fold in­crease in cit­i­zens and cor­po­ra­tions di­vest­ing them­selves of in­vest­ments in coal, oil and gas com­pa­nies. It fol­lowed his ad­dress of the United Na­tions Cli­mate Change Sum­mit in Septem­ber 2014. “We only get one planet,” he lec­tured del­e­gates that day. “Hu­mankind must be­come ac­count­able on a mas­sive scale for the wan­ton de­struc­tion of our col­lec­tive home. Pro­tect­ing our fu­ture on this planet de­pends on the con­scious evo­lu­tion of our species. This is the most ur­gent of times, and the most ur­gent of mes­sages. Lead­ers of the world, I pre­tend for a liv­ing. But you do not. The time to an­swer the great­est chal­lenge of our ex­is­tence on this planet... is now.” One thing is cer­tain. Dicaprio has left a foot­print with The Revenant. Could this be the per­for­mance that fnally earns him an Os­car for Best Ac­tor and con­frms his place in the pan­theon of hand­some bas­tards who can ac­tu­ally act? Four times a nominee and four times beaten, late bet­ting had Dicaprio ahead of Ed­die Red­mayne ( The Dan­ish Girl), Johnny Depp ( Black Mass), Tom Hanks ( Bridge of Spies), Michael Fass­ben­der ( Steve Jobs) and Matt Da­mon ( The Mar­tian). “If you look at some­body’s ca­reer, there’s go­ing to be a couple of movies that you talk about at the end that are great – flms wor­thy of show­ing your chil­dren or grand­chil­dren,” of­fers Dicaprio mod­estly. “[ The Revenant] hap­pened to be some­thing that was com­pletely dif­fer­ent to any­thing I’ve ever done be­fore. But I’m only 41 years old, I’m just get­ting started.” This year, Dicaprio is ru­moured to be deep­en­ing his Aus­tralian con­nec­tions af­ter he nabbed a $17m pay­cheque – pocket change when you’re worth an es­ti­mated $300m – to ‘act’ along­side old bud­dies Scors­ese and De Niro in a ‘flm’ for James Packer’s $4.5bn Stu­dio City casino in Ma­cau. Joel Schu­macher di­rects him in The Crowded Room as Billy Mil­li­gan, the frst per­son to suc­cess­fully claim mul­ti­ple per­son­al­ity dis­or­der in court. One of Mil­li­gan’s 24 dif­fer­ent per­son­al­i­ties was Aus­tralian, so ex­pect a char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally ac­cu­rate ac­cent from Dicaprio. Soon af­ter he’ll also re-team with Scors­ese to star in and pro­duce The Devil in the White City, based on Erik Lar­son’s grip­ping true story of a dap­per ma­niac stalk­ing the 1893 Chicago World Fair. “I never do a movie just be­cause I want to try a dif­fer­ent char­ac­ter,” he ex­plains. “I’d do 10 movies in a row about in­sane rich peo­ple if a di­rec­tor’s good and the script is unique. Avi­a­tor, Gatsby and The Wolf of Wall Street were three vastly dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters but all com­pet­ing for that same ideal.” So what’s the drive? “Com­ing from a mea­gre back­ground and then be­ing ac­cepted into a world, very early on, where I got to see the op­u­lence of rich peo­ples’ lives. I un­der­stood fast what it was like within and with­out. So now it’s all about that next great piece of art that I can be of ser­vice to. I know one thing for sure – the fat rises to the top.” So too, Leo. n The Revenant is in cine­mas now


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