Leonardo DiCaprio

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE - TIF­FANY BAKKER

IT’S a freez­ing New York win­ter’s day, and Leonardo DiCaprio is mov­ing just a tad gin­gerly. Thanks to a mishap at his Los An­ge­les home, his an­kle is bug­gered, and he’s us­ing a cane to help him nav­i­gate his ho­tel room.

“I sprained it on the floor­boards at my house,” he shrugs, slowly eas­ing him­self onto an un­com­fort­able look­ing couch. “I’m build­ing a deck and I was show­ing the ar­chi­tect what I wanted done, so I some­how jumped through a floor­board and popped a cou­ple of lig­a­ments.”

Of late he reck­ons he’s been in­jury- prone, adding that he also put his back out while film­ing one of the many drug scenes for his lat­est film, The Wolf Of Wall Street.

“I was crawl­ing around like some sort of slug for two days, and ended up at the chi­ro­prac­tor. I think my body for­gets I’m not as young as I used to be.”

In fact, it’s sort of bizarre ( and makes you feel pos­i­tively an­cient) to think that DiCaprio is near­ing 40, a mile­stone he’ll hit in Novem­ber. That this is the baby- faced ac­tor whose strik­ing blue eyes so cap­ti­vated a gen­er­a­tion of hys­ter­i­cal teenage girls in Romeo + Juliet and Ti­tanic. Th­ese days, there are a few more lines around those eyes, but it’s as if his face has fi­nally caught up with his ca­reer ( he’s a three­time Academy Award nom­i­nee).

In­deed, there are strong whispers he’ll in­crease that tally, thanks to his per­for­mance in The Wolf Of Wall Street, which is based on the mem­oir of dis­graced stock­bro­ker Jor­dan Belfort. In a “pump and dump” share scam, Belfort fleeced in­vestors out of some $ US300 mil­lion in the late 1980s and early ’ 90s, to fund a lav­ish life­style of he­li­copters, yachts, man­sions and co­pi­ous amounts of drugs.

DiCaprio, who gives a fear­less per­for­mance in the film, says he’d been ob­sessed with the he­do­nis­tic na­ture of Belfort’s mem­oir the mo­ment the book was pub­lished in 2007. “The man is por­tray­ing the darker na­ture of him­self in his own bi­og­ra­phy. I be­came ob­sessed with play­ing him be­cause I felt he kind of rep­re­sented ev­ery­thing that’s wrong with Amer­ica to­day.”

DiCaprio, of course, has had his own rep­u­ta­tion as a bit of a party boy with, like Belfort, a pen­chant for mod­els ( his lat­est is 21- year- old Ger­man supermodel Toni Garrn).

“You can’t com­pare me to him,” he snorts. “I’ve got noth­ing on Jor­dan Belfort.”

The ac­tor viewed the book as “this sort of fi­nan­cial un­der­world story” and wanted five- time col­lab­o­ra­tor Martin Scors­ese to di­rect the film ( in­deed the film has el­e­ments of Good­fel­las about it). For Scors­ese, em­bark­ing on another project with DiCaprio was a no- brainer.

“Film­mak­ing can be an ar­du­ous busi­ness, and there’s ab­so­lutely noth­ing worse than work­ing with peo­ple who don’t want to be there, and Leo is never like that,” says Scors­ese.

“Aside from the fact that he’s a ter­rific ac­tor, ev­ery time we work to­gether it goes fur­ther, and our work­ing re­la­tion­ship gets deeper. We just like to hang out, we like be­ing around each other, we re­ally do.”

In some ways, DiCaprio and Belfort could be two sides of the same coin. Both ac­cu­mu­lated mas­sive wealth at an early age ( DiCaprio is said to be worth more than $ US200 mil­lion), but both have han­dled their money in en­tirely dif­fer­ent ways, but DiCaprio, a com­mit­ted en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist and phi­lan­thropist, says he can un­der­stand where the urge for more stems from.

“Be­ing a suc­cess­ful per­son my­self, I hon­estly feel that the at­ti­tude is very twisted – the need to ac­cu­mu­late more and more wealth and con­sume more and more. I’ve met a lot of peo­ple like that in my in­dus­try and it al­most be­comes an ob­ses­sion with them. Ev­ery­thing re­lates to more money and once you reach a cer­tain bracket of wealth, that’s not enough and you have to get more. And then that’s not enough, and you have to get more again.”

For Belfort, “more” was never enough. He made $ 49 mil­lion bucks the year he turned 26, but was fu­ri­ous he didn’t reach $ 52 mil­lion, “be­cause it was three shy of a mil­lion a week”.

DiCaprio says he liked the fact that Belfort and his cronies “aren’t the movers and shak­ers of Wall Street, th­ese are re­ally street urchins that are try­ing to em­u­late Gor­don Gekko”.

The only reser­va­tion he had was that the au­di­ence would “tune out” be­cause the be­hav­iour of the pro­tag­o­nists is so ap­palling. ( Jonah Hill is ex­tra­or­di­nary as Belfort’s re­pul­sive part­ner- in- crime, Don­nie, and Aussie Mar­got Rob­bie ce­ments her sta­tus as a star on the rise as Belfort’s wife, Naomi.)

DiCaprio dis­misses ac­cu­sa­tions that the film glo­ri­fies Belfort’s crimes. ( Belfort ul­ti­mately served only a pal­try 22 months of a four- year jail sen­tence, af­ter co- op­er­at­ing with the FBI).

“We don’t give th­ese peo­ple any moral com­pass what­so­ever,” he says. “We’re not apol­o­gis­ing for their ac­tions. I think we’re por­tray­ing them for what they were and what their mo­ti­va­tions were, and we’re not giv­ing them some false sense of sym­pa­thy for an au­di­ence.”

There’s also the mat­ter of some of the film’s more risque scenes, such as the one which fea­tures him snort­ing co­caine off of a woman’s breasts, not to men­tion the one of him be­ing whipped by a dom­i­na­trix who has an in­ter­est­ing idea for the place­ment of a burn­ing can­dle. DiCaprio says he had no reser­va­tions about film­ing the scenes.

“When you do a char­ac­ter like this, you have to go all out,” he says.

“You can’t pull any punches.”

THE WOLF OF WALL STREET Now show­ing at Vil­lage and State cine­mas

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