Monday, November 15, 2010

Happy (belated) birthday, Leonardo DiCaprio!

Last week Leonardo DiCaprio celebrated his 36th birthday on November 11. I have been a fan of his for a long time, ever since I watched What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) on HBO and subsequently became infatuated with both the film itself and DiCaprio's performance. The movie remains one of my favorite films ever. DiCaprio played Arnie, a mentally challenged teenager living in the small town of Endora with his older brother Gilbert (Johnny Depp), sisters, and obese mother who never left the house. DiCaprio received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor but lost to Tommy Lee Jones for The Fugitive. After What's Eating Gilbert Grape DiCaprio acted alongside Sharon Stone and Gene Hackman in The Quick in the Dead (1995) and took on the role of poet Jim Carroll in The Basketball Diaries (1995), which dealt with Carroll's addiction to drugs as a teenager in New York. His performance as Romeo alongside Claire Danes' Juliet in the Baz Luhrman-directed William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (1996) further cemented his status as a Hollywood heartthrob and in demand up-and-coming young actor. Luhrman set the film in present day and retained Shakespeare's dialogue. Both the film and its accompanying soundtrack were very big at my junior high and I'm sure the movie helped many students studying the play understand the action better. Arguably the biggest film of DiCaprio's career was his role as Jack Dawson in James Cameron's Titanic (1997). The movie won 11 of the 14 Academy Award categories it was nominated for. The love story between Jack and Rose (Kate Winslet) helped the movie dominate the box office in late 1997 and the first part of 1998 and pushed DiCaprio-fandom over the top, as Titanic and DiCaprio-related merchandise was everywhere.

Since the world-wide explosion of Titanic, DiCaprio has picked roles where he continues to grow as an actor. He acted alongside Tom Hanks in the Steven Spielberg-directed Catch Me if You Can (2002), received a Best Actor nomination for Blood Diamond (2006), co-starred with Russell Crowe in the Ridley Scott-directed Body of Lies, and reteamed with Titanic co-star Winslet in the very depressing Revolutionary Road (2008). DiCaprio has also teamed with director Martin Scorsese for the films Gangs of New York (2002), The Aviator (2004), The Departed (2006), and Shutter Island (2010).

I think that DiCaprio's performances in Shutter Island and Christopher Nolan's Inception (2010, out on DVD December 7) were among my favorites from any actor in film this year. I look forward to his future projects, Hoover (in which he plays J. Edgar Hoover) and The Devil in the White City (in which he plays Dr. Henry Howard).