Chaos, coke, sex, cash — Leonardo DiCaprio is back work­ing with Martin Scors­ese, and lov­ing it, writes Jonathan Dean

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Front Page -

LEONARDO DiCaprio smokes elec­tronic cig­a­rettes, the Prius of ad­dic­tion. I didn’t no­tice at first, ap­proach­ing him from be­hind as a plume of what looked like real smoke rose around his broad, still shoul­ders and above his head. Gelled hair, slicked back. We meet at the edge of a bal­cony in Bev­erly Hills, as he stares over flow­er­pots into lateafter­noon haze. He must have tucked the plas­tic stick into a jacket pocket be­fore we shook hands. Min­utes in, he takes a deep drag and the tip glows with green light. It reminds me of Gatsby’s sig­nal for Daisy in Baz Luhrmann’s party folly, which earned more money than any film its star has made with Martin Scors­ese, but far fewer friends. He ended last year in his fifth film with Amer­ica’s finest liv­ing film­maker, The Wolf of Wall Street. Based on the crook stock­bro­ker Jor­dan Belfort’s mem­oir, it’s chaos, coke, sex and cash in cap­i­tal­ism’s greed­i­est era. ‘‘ It’s Caligula, de­bauch­ery at its ut­ter ex­treme, giv­ing in to ev­ery deadly sin,’’ DiCaprio says ex­cit­edly, as if he’s just snuck out of his first 18-rated film.

In per­son, the 39-year-old doesn’t look much older than he did at 23, in 1997, the Ti­tanic year, 12 months af­ter Romeo + Juliet had first set hearts aflut­ter. Like a wax­work from his younger days, with a goa­tee and a cou­ple of bags etched un­der the eyes, he’s friendly, if not ex­actly fun. A se­ri­ous man whose barely used Twit­ter ac­count lists him as an ‘‘ ac­tor and en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist’’, last month he do­nated mil­lions to save tigers. He holds eye con­tact — those sharp blues — and leaves long, thought­ful sen­tences. When he laughs, it comes from nowhere. It’s nerdy, of­ten when what’s said isn’t funny. Then he sits back, lis­ten­ing, smok­ing, checked shirt hang­ing open to re­veal a sliver of a sil­ver neck­lace.

‘‘ This is about a man who gave in to ev­ery temp­ta­tion,’’ he says of The Wolf of Wall Street, a three-hour Os­car con­tender in a cham­pagne year for film. ‘‘ That’s the ex­cite­ment, ex­plor­ing the dark side of hu­man na­ture. To me, that’s what all the great­est movies have been about.’’ Martin Scors­ese, he says, is a mas­ter of this, the height­ened drama per­fected in his rise-and-fall Good­Fel­las.

As the ‘‘ bright-eyed and bushy-tailed’’ Belfort, DiCaprio is cor­rupted by Mark Hanna (the scene-steal­ing Matthew McConaughey), ‘‘ the devil that leads me to Dante’s in­ferno’’, as DiCaprio puts it. Even­tu­ally, Belfort is ar­rested by the FBI, but what rich fun — boats with chop­pers, a Quaalude orgy on a plane, dwarf tossing, Joanna Lum­ley — is had on the way.

Belfort is vul­gar. He writes about how his boom-and-big-busts life­style brought ‘‘ in­san­ity to young Amer­i­cans’’, but he never seems re­pen­tant. Take the book’s cover, for one, with the thief smugly lord­ing it over wads of cash, sur­rounded by a bikini model and ex­pen­sive mo­tor ve­hi­cles. And he’s sex­ist — pa­tro­n­is­ing about a long-suf­fer­ing ex-wife he cheated on with a range of pros­ti­tutes.

‘‘ We thought about whether peo­ple will be

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