Hobbling into the room with the help of a cane (“I sprained my ankle”), dressed in a sky blue blazer, a blue dress shirt and white keds, his blond hair slicked back, Leonardo DiCaprio could pass off as an erudite New Yorker, showing little trace of the multi-million dollar-earning Hollywood star that he is.
At 39, he’s still got the boyish good looks that made him a marquee darling with Titanic, but his resume is packed with brave, clutter-breaking movies that have made him one of the most respected young actors. A committed environmentalist and an avid traveller (“I’d love to go to India”), he’s collaborated five times with Martin Scorsese, and in their latest film, The Wolf of Wall Street — which releases in India today — DiCaprio plays real-life American scamster-stockbroker Jordan Belfort.
Scorsese has said that working with you reignited his enthusiasm for making pictures. Has he been a big influence in your life?
Every time I step on set with him I learn something new … and you have to be listening for it because his process is so organic with actors. He’s not beholden to the plot, he’s not beholden to a structure that ultimately can limit you. He’s a partner in the process of discovering what that movie is through your performance. So I think that ultimately steps up your game.
Scorsese has often spoken about his great admiration for Satyajit Ray’s cinema, and he’s familiar with contemporary Indian cinema too. Do you share a love for cinema of the world with him?
Marty calls himself a student of cinema, and he’s got his ear to the ground, he’s always watching exciting new films and talking about them to his actors and to his crew. I do share a love for the cinema, but my awareness of Indian cinema isn’t as strong as I’d like it to be. It’s something I have to work on.
You made three films back to back — Django Unchained, The Great Gatsby, and The Wolf of Wall Street. Were you exhausted?
It felt like I’ve been working non-stop since I was 13. I’ve taken some time off in my 20s, but other than that I’ve been working non-stop really. I didn’t feel exhausted making this film because this was like a big adrenalin dump for me.