Celebrity Premiere at the New York Film Festival - Fall 1998



Screaming fans, photographers and autograph hounds almost collapsed the police barricades when DiCaprio showed up for the premiere of Woody Allen's Celebrity at the New York Film Festival. In the film, DiCaprio quite slips very easily into playing the heartthrob actor Brandon Darrow - who then trashes a hotel room, beats up his girlfriend Vicky and resists arrest. Darrow, bodyguards, pals and girlfriend then pile into a waiting limousine, knock back the champagne and fly off to Atlantic City to see a boxing match. Later, in Darrow's hotel suite, a drug and booze-soaked orgy ends in a four-way sex session with Darrow and Vicky in bed with Kenneth Branagh, the movie's star, and his date. Whether DiCaprio's fans will like the result of Allen's enjoyable romp is another matter. Leo first arrives in the film's second hour and his energetic performance lasts only 15 minutes but he steals the movie when he appears on screen. He is terrific and perhaps could have been nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar if people hadn't believed that he simply had played himself.

DiCaprio's friends claim that the 24 year old is no pampered film star like Brandon Darrow. "Everybody knows he isn't portraying himself in this movie but Matt Damon," joked Casey Affleck who made Good Will Hunting with bog brother Ben. "Anyway, the movie was made before Titanic came out and made Leo a superstar so he couldn't have just played himself."

As for all the bad publicity DiCaprio has garnered for his rowdy nightclub antics, Miramax studios boss Harvey Weinstein, who produced Good Will Hunting as well as Celebrity, scolded "Come on! Is he really doing anything that any other 24 year old with some mean isn't doing" He just can't escape public notice."

Los Angeles-based DiCaprio certainly couldn't avoid piblic notice the weekend he came to New York for the film's premiere. The press followed him everywhere. On the Thursday night he partied at Soho's Veruka with his Basketball Diaries co-star Mark Wahlberg and Sean Penn, Cuba Gooding Jnr and also Edward Furlong at the premiere party for John Walter's Pecker.

On Friday he arrived at the premiere of Celebrity at New York's Lincoln Centre. He paused briefly to be interviewed for American TV crews, stating things like "No, I haven't missed working", "I'm very happy to be here and support this movie, and I had a wonderful time working with Woody, a great director." "Woody cast me because he had liked my performance in Marvin's Room" and "The site of the scene where I trash the hotel was filmed at the Stanhope hotel."

Sensing that fans and paparazzi might get out of hand, security guards quickly steered DiCaprio toward the door, which provoked boos from some photographers who had missed their Leo shot. But the star, who perhaps has an undeserved reputation for being aloof after skipping last year's Oscars, freed himself. Going back to pose some more, he earned a round of applause from his fans and the press. This was the sort of real life performance that made his co-star Kenneth Branagh think that DiCaprio will "survive this storm of adulation."

At the post premiere party at Central Park's Tavern on the Green, Kenneth told Film Review "It's inevitable that there is a transient sadness to this kind of fame - the need for security and all, but I find Leo very together and able to be funny about what's happened to him." Also attending the party were Kenneth's girlfriend, Helena Bonham Carter, along with Winona Ryder, Charlise Theron, Famke Jansen, Ethan Hawke and his wife Uma Thurman.

DiCaprio came with his parents, cousins, magician David Blaine and Manager Rik Yorn. Sitting at a table with Miramax boss Harvey Weinstein, who later stood guard at the teen idol's table alongside bodyguards, Leonardo's mother voiced concern about how her son is being chased by paparazzi.

"It gets very crazy," she said. "In Japan women banged on the plate-glass windows and they shattered." Harvey noted that "He's the biggest star I've ever dealt with and he's such a good kid. I've been to Cannes with Madonna and Sharon Stone and John Travolta but nothing compares with Leonardo DiCaprio! The security around him is awesome, police with night-sticks and everybody so hyper, wary and juiced up but he is the same charming boy I've always known him to be and he did everything he promised. He stopped and talked to the press and posed and everybody got what they wanted. It was particularly satisfying to me because James Cameron criticized Leo for not going to the Oscars implying he wasn't a real team player and yet here he is being so co-operative for this movie and this director."

Harvey thinks that if Leonardo had known the amount of grief the Titanic success would bring, he might never have done the film. "I don't think even now he fully comprehends how and why Titanic changed his life so drastically. He's appreciative and tries to keep a sense of humour but this madness, it's not him at all."

Charlize Theron, who plays an over-sexed model in Celebrity and is about to star alongside Johnny Depp in The Astronaut's wife, talked about meeting DiCaprio for the first time in LA four years ago: 'When you see him, you know he is a STAR - even back then. He has that sort of CHARISMA. People always considered him a very talented actor, and although everyone thinks actors are catty and jealous, everybody were really happy about Leo's success with Titanic.