E-Online, February 8, 2000


Jeanne Wolf interviews Danny Boyle

When Leonardo DiCaprio headed off to a tropical island in Thailand to star in The Beach as a backpacker searching for paradise, part of the attraction was working with Danny Boyle. Leo had loved the British director´s wickedly dark and funny indie hit "Trainspotting", and when he hooked up with Boyle they clicked almost immediately. Which put the director in a unique position: Not only did he have access to Leo´s inner circle, he also put the star through his acting paces on a daily basis. So, what´s DiCaprio like - on and off camera? Boyle has a prettyy good idea.

The character Leo plays in The Beach is quite a departure from his role in Titanic. Was he deliberately trying to change his image?

It´s a burden being seen as a sexy movie actor, a big romantic lead. You either carry on with that, or you try and be completely different, which, I think, is something Leo is clearly interested in doing.

You saw the charisma that got the whole world excited. How would you explain it?

I think Leo is never truly alive unless he´s actually in front of the camera. He would come on the set in the morning and just be dead - virtually lying on the floor, looking like what we call a dog´s breakfast. But as soon as he would get on camera, he would be totally involved.

He has an immediacy of contact. This is the biggest thing, I think, that makes a star - an immediate contact with the audience. It´s frightening how easily acting seems to come to him. It´s effortless.

What surprised you about your star?

One of the things that is interesting about him as an actor is he is very feminine. Of course, he´s a kind of a young macho guy - but he is also very comfortable with something feminine inside of him. I think that´s a big element of why we look to him as a powerful actor who can be such a compelling leading man.

We´ve heard he loves to crack people up on set.

He does, but he´s actually very shy. That´s another thing that surprised me. We had a large cast, and Leo felt like the outsider because of all the fuss over Titanic. He said, "It will take a long time for me to make friends. I make friends very, very slowly." He was honest about that.

In Titanic, poor Leo was in the water for days. He had to do it again for your movie as he struggled to swim to a tropical island.

He was pretty good in the water, but there were a lot of jellyfish, and you should have seen him being stung. He was an absolute hero that day. He would be going, "Ouch, ouch!" Then I´d say, "Action!" and he would be completely in character. Every so often, these big, red jellyfish would swim through. They are really poisonous. We had to get everybody out of the water, because if they wrap around you, that´s it - you´ll die, basically.

There were reports Leo wore pantyhose in the water to protect himself. Now that´s an image.

There were all sorts of things worn. But actually, stuff like that makes it worse, because if the jellyfish get caught in what you´re wearing, then you´re just carrying them around.

Some actors would rather be stung by a jellyfish than do love scenes. Leo has a couple of intense ones. How was he about filming them?

He was fine, and so were the actresses. I think, funnily enough, you find out less about actors when they´re naked than you do at any other time. You don´t get complete honesty. They just hide a part of themselves. I think you find out a lot more about them when they´ve got their clothes on.

Leo is famous for his imitations and impersonations. Was he living up to this reputation?

He called me up and pretended to be Harvey Weinstein, the president of Miramax, who has a very distinctive voice. The voice said, "Listen, I want to buy out your movie, Danny." He said he wanted to take the movie away from Fox and bring it to Miramax instead. I was speechless that Harvey would propose something like that. And, of course, it was Leo, and I couldn´t believe it.

He generates the media and fan frenzy everywhere he goes. Were you prepared for that?

No. You think you can be, but until it begins to happen, you have no idea of the kind of madness that surrounds his life. But the thing that is reassuring is that Leo manages to stay on top of it.

Were fans and paparazzis trying to invade the set?

Oh yeah, pretending to be laundry men - all kinds of unbelievable stuff. People were following him from all over the world. We would be doing a crowd scene, and Leo would say, "Look over there. You see those two women? They are always on every set I go on, they´re always there." That was scary. So, we had to have bodyguards around.

Leo had visitors on the set, from his girlfriend and his posse to his parents and grandmother. Wasn´t that a distraction?

No. He is very generous with his money, and he loved to bring people out from the States. He would fly people over regularly just to give them a holiday. In fact, one of the other actors, Peter Youngblood Hill, had a birthday, and Leo flew out his best friend to surprise him. That´s the kind of things he would do.

I want people to know that, because people who write about him say terrible things. And he´s really very caring - nothing like the way the media have portrayed him.