ART IMITATES LIFE
LEONARDO DICAPRIO HAS PLENTY TO DRAW UPON IN HIS ROLE OF AN ACTOR
Playing a washed-up TV cowboy appealed in more ways than one to Leonardo Dicaprio. The Oscar winner teams up with Brad Pitt in director Quentin Tarantino’s 1960s comedy drama Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
In the film, faded television actor Rick Dalton (Dicaprio) and his stunt double Cliff Booth (Pitt) strive to achieve fame and success in the film industry during the final years of Hollywood’s golden age in Los Angeles.
The role not only reunites Dicaprio with Tarantino but also his Wolf of Wall Street co-star Margot Robbie. The Queensland-born actress plays Rick’s neighbour, model and actress Sharon Tate.
Q: What appealed to you about the character?
A: When I first read the script, besides the idea of Rick being an actor that’s experiencing a shelf life, I realised that it’s about a person that’s dealing with their own mortality, in a lot of ways, and coming to terms with that.
Q: Were you surprised that you’ve never worked with Brad before?
A: Yeah. I mean, we were on the same (’80s–’90s) TV show, Growing Pains. We’d never really worked together though. It’s interesting because as we – Quentin and Brad and I – started talking, we realised that we all came around in this industry in the
same era and time, in that early to mid-’90s time frame. So we have that prior reference. Q: How did you find working with him? A: It was fantastic. He’s an amazing actor, so professional and so easy to work with. There was this great comfort we had, not only from working together but we knew so much of our characters’ back stories given to us by Quentin that it made way for great moments of improvisation. There was just this natural thing that came out in us. Not a lot needed to be said. We understood the bond between our characters. We understood it implicitly. We literally had folders of what our history was together: how long we’ve been in the industry, how Cliff had had my back through the hard times.
Q: Have you ever bonded with a stunt double?
A: To me, Brad’s character Cliff is not just a stunt double. He’s more of an all-purpose Swiss army knife to my character – he’s a shoulder to cry on, he’s a psychiatrist, he’s a bodyguard, he’s an assistant, he’s everything. Rick pays him and gets 12 other jobs into the bargain. Rick keeps him working but he’s there for him. I’ve had guys like that. You’re off in fricking Africa for eight months and you’ve got that person who’s going to be there, just to be silent and watch TV with you when you don’t want to be alone.
Q: The movie talks a lot about frustrated expectations. Is that something you still find yourself dealing with?
A: When you’re an actor you play different characters – it doesn’t necessarily need to be your own life, your own experience. I mean, that’s a part of what we do as artists. Having said that, I felt completely connected with this character. I felt like I knew who this man was. I have a lot of friends who are actors, people that I grew up with, ever since I was
13. I know the struggles. And not only the struggles but the immense waves of insecurity that one might have, feeling like everything’s sort of falling apart. I don’t know why but I immediately connected and understood what this person is personally going through.