Interview by AdelaideNow - October 7, 2007
http://www.news.com.au/adelaidenow/story/0,22606,22542443-5006343,00.html

 

 

Leo spills about his new film

 

Leonardo DiCaprio talks candidly about his new film, The 11th Hour.

Q&A with Leonardo DiCaprio (Narrator / Producer), Leila Conners Petersen (Writer / Director / Producer), Nadia Conners (Writer / Director), and Kenny Ausubel (Consultant).

 

What are the challenges of reaching out to people who are not aware or interested in the issues brought up in your film?

LEONARDO DICAPRIO: I think thatís the whole purpose in making this movie. We specifically talk about this issue having to not belong to any political party, specifically. A whole segment in the movie talks about how in the Ď70s, the Clean Air Act was passed, the Clean Water Act was passed, and this was done by Republicans and Democrats working across the board. This is a huge issue. This is an issue that the whole world has to embrace. We, as the United States, all need to start learning Ė through films like this, through the media, through public awareness. We need to work together, and this is one tiny little piece in that puzzle.

NADIA CONNERS: We tried to make a very human film in that itís an emotional film. Itís scary; itís exciting; itís tragic; itís shocking, daunting and hopeful. All of those feelings, I think, speak to attempting to get a broader reach. Yes, thereís a lot of data in this film, but itís more about the experience of traveling through this journey of information, of going through the hell and into the hope. And I think in that we will probably reach a broader audience.

But what do you say to skeptics who donít believe thereís a problem?

LEONARDO DICAPRIO: The whole purpose of making this movie really stemmed from wanting to listen to the consensus of the overwhelming majority of the scientific community. For me, just as a citizen of the United States, I wanted to hear what these people had to say in an uninterrupted form. I wanted to hear their lifeís work and what theyíve been studying for all this time. It was about us asking these questions. And hopefully, when people see this movie, theyíll be emotionally impacted and want to do something about it. I think that was the whole point in making this movie, to make a human film, wherein you realize the harsh realities of what will happen if we continue with business as usual. But we also highlight the great possibilities that are out there. There are technologies that are in place right now that can reduce the ecological imprint by 90 percent. And itís time that we as the people started urging the powers-that-be to try to infuse this into our daily lives, to the point where we donít even need to think about it anymore.

NADIA CONNERS: The point of this film is about restating the state of the world and restating this whole notion of environmentalism as a human topic, as a human issue. We are nature. We are part of this biosphere. Up until now, environmentalism was outside of normal debate. It was like, ĎOh, you can choose to be environmentalist or not.í What this movie is trying to do and why we think it builds bridges is because weíre talking about humanity as a whole, who we are, how we arrived at the state weíre in, and how we get out of it. And when people want to be deniers or skeptics, or whatever they want to be for whatever reason, if those people actually did listen and look and learn, they would know that the reality of the situation is as we state it in the film Ė the biosphere is in trouble; we caused this trouble, we need to fix it. And thatís the simple truth.

What do you say to people who consider global warming to be a hoax?

NADIA CONNERS: That theyíre going to be left behind. There are millions of people, millions and millions around the world, that are doing the good work of restoration. And I donít believe that the deniers or the skeptics are going to prevail.

LEONARDO DICAPRIO: My response to that has always been: how could we as a country not be for becoming energy independent and not reliant on foreign oil? The overwhelming scientific community is in agreement that mankind is playing a major role in this. How could we not want cleaner air and cleaner water? These are fundamental human rights issues. So, I think it crosses political boundaries in a huge way. Thatís my response to the skeptics. Why wouldnít we want to be less dependent on foreign oil?

KENNY AUSUBEL: I think there are other winds that are shifting right now. Big business is going green, including for financial reasons. Green building is already going mainstream over the next 10 years. Green chemistry is going to be mainstream. DuPont, 3M, giant companies are behind this. So, this is a wave where, actually, government policy is behind corporate interests. And as those winds shift, the skepticism will also fade. And then you look at something like the rightwing Christian movement. There is creation care now among Christian evangelicals. So, thereís a lot of change.

With monolithic companies willing to pay to pollute, how do you get them to change their ways?

LEILA CONNERS PETERSEN: Well, itís exciting because this is about leadership at every level. We know that there are two paths weíre on right now Ė the path of destruction and the path of healing and restoration. We know now what we need to do. People need to put pressure on corporations to change and not only by their product, shift to renewable energy. If ExxonMobil doesnít want to change, the world will leave them behind. Thatís whatís happening now. Obviously, they still have a lot of power, but that will shift. It has to do with a change of heart in all of Americans, all of the people around the world, to shift in this direction. We shouldnít be frightened that theyíre big Ė and we do say that theyíre big and theyíre powerful Ė but whatís also happening is that people like Tom Lindsey are taking away the power of corporations by saying, Ďtheyíre not people. They donít have the rights they used to have.í So, there are solutions. We just have to implement them.

Leo, what kind of balancing act is it for you to separate a need for privacy with a project like this, which lets people know what you care about and what your commitments are?

LEONARDO DICAPRIO: Truthfully, itís not something that I think about within this particular case. This has always been a huge passion of mine ever since I was very young. I was very affected by the media, much like this movie. I was very affected by documentaries that I saw as a young kid about the rainforest, the police, and the mass extinction thatís going on right now. So, for me, itís a merging of two worlds. I think that this film is the culmination of that. This is my experience in this business and learning how to affect people emotionally through film and my passion for environmental issues. Thatís what this movie has become. And it has been a pretty profound experience and a great learning experience for me because I really wanted to play the role of somebody who is hopefully asking the right questions of people that have devoted their lives to this issue. But Iím very vocal about environmental issues, and Iím going to continue to be. Iím going to continue to be an actor as well because theyíre simply passions of mine. Thatís all.

With so many films scheduled, how do you prioritize your film career with your personal priorities?

LEONARDO DICAPRIO: Thatís a good question. Itís what Iím dealing with right now. But Iím taking one thing at a time. This movie has been a three-year process. This has been a homemade movie in a lot of ways and very unique in my career. Itís much different than going off filming for three or four months. This has been hundreds of hours with these women in the editing room, really condensing thousands of hours of footage into an hour and a half, and trying to make a film that will really impact people to the point where they leave the theatre sitting in the face of the harsh realities of what will happen to this planet and us in the future if we donít make change, but also highlighting and, hopefully, inspiring people to realize that there are a lot of solutions out there if they become active. Thatís the whole key to making this movie Ė hopefully inspiring people to become more educated about this subject and to take action personally.

Are you comfortable on where this issue sits among voters?

NADIA CONNERS: Unfortunately, thereís still a huge disconnect. The environmental problem is over there; the climate is changing over there; the water is polluted over there. Somehow, we need to reconnect ourselves with the environment and the environmental problems that we face. And, in essence, thatís what we were trying to do in the film is that we turn environmental problems into a symptom of something bigger. The bigger problem is industrial civilization. We hope that in doing that, maybe people who donít normally think about the environment as a priority, as saving the redwoods as a priority, that somehow something thatís almost a luxury for a certain type of person, but, as Leonardo was saying earlier, this is a human rights issue. The capacity to sustain human beings on this planet is in peril. And the fact that it isnít one of the top five things or the top thing on everyoneís minds in this upcoming election is a problem. And we hope to contribute to a tipping point in the social realm, in that way, with this film.

KENNY AUSUBEL: I think thereís a disconnect, though, with the politicians who donít get how important this is to so many people. It will be very interesting if Michael Bloomberg comes into the race because heís made the environment his main thing in New York. And heís actually doing some very, very interesting things that are very far-sighted and long-term. He could be another Ross Perot, who could easily pull 20 percent of the vote with a primarily environmental platform. And if he does that, thatís going to shift the balance of power, and I think this will be the last presidential election where this is not center stage, honestly.

With so much resistance from the conservative side of the debate, how do you expect to reach across lines and make this more of a bipartisan issue?

NADIA CONNERS: As we mentioned earlier, the Evangelicals themselves have something called Ďcreation care.í Corporations are going green. Even folks at Fox News believe that conservation is important. Sometimes itís in their best interest to continue to ridicule liberals because itís good for ratings, but they actually believe a lot of the same things we do. And so I believe that weíre going to come together on this issue. We have to. And, sadly, if more Katrinas happen, if disaster strikes, weíre going to unify very quickly. What this film is trying to say is, Ďletís do it before the disasters become so out of control that our options are so much fewer.í

Why did you include so much information about the problem rather than jump directly into solutions? Do you think that people donít understand that the problem exists?

NADIA CONNERS: Most people donít really believe or understand the depth and the breadth of this problem, and they are disconnected from the problem. Itís over there. Itís not here. In fact, the problem is in this room. Itís in everything that we see. Itís in all the products of industrial civilization. We also know that there are, of course, Ďthe top 10 things that you can do to help the planet.í You have to change your light bulbs, and keep your tires filled, and those kinds of things. But what we were going for was something much bigger. And that, I think, is a key step in whatís going to make a tipping point socially. That is consciousness change. And in order to achieve that consciousness change, you do have to go on a journey. You go through a journey of this relationship, as Kenny says in the beginning of the film, between human beings and the planet. You go into that story and you find the problems and you go through while weíre still here, and then you go into the hope and the solutions, because a lot of this is about making a change of heart and a change of consciousness, so that you, as an individual, can decide what level youíre going to engage with this change because it has to be a broad societal movement. It isnít going to be change with just like one or two silver bullet fixes.

KENNY AUSUBEL: And one thing is that as big business shifts to going green, itís really going to be much more about free markets, and thatís going to get a lot of those folksí attention. There were demographic surveys done after Hurricane Katrina. And the demographic that was found to be most passionately supportive of doing something about global warming was African American women, a complete reversal. That had never been on the radar screen before, for obvious and good reasons. Thatís a shift that is not really politically visible yet, but thatís well on the way. I think that some of this is about framing. And when we talk about future generations, weíre talking about the rights of the unborn. I mean, letís get serious here. If we want to really take care of the unborn, we better start thinking about the environment.

Leo, a question about the films youíve chosen to make. Do you see a change today in that filmmakers and the people who are bankrolling films are willing to deal with these subjects now, rather than saying, Ďletís give it 10 years down the road?í

LEONARDO DICAPRIO: I think itís encouraging. I think itís a throwback to a lot of political films that I enjoyed in the Ď70s, certainly films like 'Parallax View' or 'Three Days of the Condor'. And Iíd love to be a part of more films like that if itís a good enough story, and if it has a great narrative in it, and itís going to be a good film first and foremost. Iím a huge advocate for making those types of movies, and thatís why Blood Diamond was huge on my radar and I jumped at that opportunity and certainly this film with Ridley Scott coming up. Iíd love to do more movies like that. And I would just hope that enough people go to see them so the studios will be encouraged to make more films like that in the future, and know that thereís an audience for them, they are profitable because we talk about media. This is the way that people are educated about these issues nowadays. This is the main avenue for learning in todayís world.

 

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