Interview by


Leonardo DiCaprio Interview about '11th Hour'

posted by Sheila Roberts


MoviesOnline recently sat down with Leonardo DiCaprio at the Los Angeles press day to talk about his new film, "The 11th Hour,Ē a feature length documentary about the human impact on our planet narrated & produced by DiCaprio and written & directed by Leila Conners Petersen and Nadia Conners.

"The 11th HourĒ is a story about how humans face an extinction crisis if we continue on the path of business as usual and it examines our involvement in the collapse of the planetís ecosystems and our potential role in reversing this damage. "The 11th HourĒ presents a global call for change and offers fascinating insights, ideas and solutions to a climate crisis in which everything is connected. The documentary features dialogues with experts from all over the world, including former Soviet Prime Minister Mikhail Gorbachev, renowned scientist Stephen Hawking, former CIA head R. James Woolsey, and sustainable design experts William McDonough and Bruce Mau, in addition to over 50 leading scientists, thinkers and leaders who present the facts and discuss the most important issues that face our planet.

Leonardo DiCaprio has been passionate about the environment since he was a child. In 1998, he started the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, followed by, which foster awareness of environmental issues. The Foundation places particular emphasis on the issues of global warming, alternative and renewable energy sources, and the preservation of the planetís biodiversity. In 2000, DiCaprio chaired the national Earth Day celebration. During ABCís "20/20Ē special on Earthy Day, DiCaprio interviewed President Clinton to address the issues surrounding global warming and the environment. Together, they discussed policies and steps that the administration could take to encourage Americans and U.S. oil companies to adopt greener practices.

DiCaptrio teamed up with NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) in 2004 to build the e-Activism Zone in Santa Monica, aimed at educating young people and inspiring them to make a lifelong commitment to the environment. DiCaprio, along with Norman Learís campaign "Declare YourselfĒ and Diddyís "Citizen Change, Vote or DieĒ campaign, criss-crossed the U.S.A., visiting college campuses and encouraging young people to register to vote. Combining both his passions, DiCaprio narrated two short environmental films, entitled "Global WarningĒ in 2003 and "Water PlanetĒ in 2005. Most recently, he teamed up with Tree Media to produce and narrate "The 11th HourĒ which was an official selection at the Cannes Film Festival in May 2007. In "The 11th Hour,Ē Leonardo DiCaprio uses his voice and visibility to raise our eco-awareness and deliver an important message. Hereís what he had to tell us:


MoviesOnline: Why was it so important to you to make this film?

LEONARDO DICAPRIO: We had previously worked together on two short films, and it really was a homemade movie in a lot of ways, and it became about Ė out of discussions that we had about the environment and media, and the want and the need to hear some of the great experts and visionaries in the environmental field of our time be able to speak in an open form uninterrupted about a subject matter that theyíve devoted their life to.

That was really the basis of wanting to make this movie, wanting to hear some great thinkers really give us some insight as investigators on this issue. And we got to go to places like the (sounds like) Bioneers Conference that Kenny (Ausubel) here runs, and pick the brains of dozens of different people and it became, I suppose, a year and a half editing process condensing down some of their profound thoughts and ideas into an hour and a half format, which was very challenging at times to say the least.

MoviesOnline: Being a star, what kind of benefit do you receive for doing something like this?

LEONARDO DICAPRIO: Do you mean do I reap any financial benefit from being an environmentalist? Itís hard for me to answer that because I donít really look at it that way, in the sense that I became an actor at a very young age, but I also had a deep respect for nature, and I think I was a little biologist when I was younger. I watched documentaries on green resourse depletion and the loss of species and habitats for animals around the world, and it affected me in a very hardcore emotional way when I was younger, so later in life I wanted to continue that path more and investigate and learn more about ecological issues.

That sent me eventually into a room with Al Gore about ten years ago who explained to me what climate change was, and global warming, and the science behind that and the decades of research that heíd done on the subject matter, and it really propelled me to want to be more vocal about the issue, because it seemed to me, and the media and the change of weather that weíd been having, the weather patterns, the flooding, the hurricanes, all these things, there wasnít enough of a connection being made in mainstream media. So it made me want to become more vocal about it, and it led me to work with organizations like Global Green and NRDC, and made me more pro-active in the environmental movement.

It seems now more so than ever weíre at a real tipping point, and certainly in the publicís eye global warming is at the forefront of a lot of peopleís minds, and itís been talked about more so than ever. So itís just an exciting movement to be a part of, I think it is the movement of certainly my generation and the next generation, I think itís galvanized the younger generation more than any other movement in years because itís so universal, and itís just exciting to be a part of it all.

MoviesOnline: What was interesting to me about this film was the connection between consumerism and the environment, younger people are big consumers and theyíre the consumers of tomorrow, in what way can they make a difference?

LEONARDO DICAPRIO: Itís a very difficult problem, because in reality how are we going to actually make people stop consuming? Thatís not the point of the movie, the point in essence is, wouldnít it be great to live in a world where we wouldnít have to think about these kinds of things, where the powers that be, the corporations that manufacture these items, our government, were powered by solar and wind and we had alternate energy resources, and this was just integrated into our every day lives.

And in that sense when we talk about voting with your dollar, yes, every time you do buy something youíre advocating the way that company does business, and by buying a hybrid car or buying something organic, youíre essentially making them create more for the marketplace out there. That will eventually grow, and I think thatís the point of the whole situation. Weíd all love to live in a world where we wouldnít have to think about these things, that the powers that be thought of that for us.

MoviesOnline: Thereís the old movie clichť the planet is in peril, whether itís aliens or a virus and at the 11th hour the hero saves the day, who are the attackers and who is the hero that is going to save the planet?

LEONARDO DICAPRIO: I think thereís got to be millions of heroes, thatís my answer to that.

MoviesOnline: What would we do if an alien was doing the things weíre doing to this planet? What would our reaction be? Would we be outraged?

LEONARDO DICAPRIO: Would we be outraged? Iím sure we would. I think itís a strange world we live in, and I think thatís what weíre all sort of realizing more and more. I donít think it takes an expert, and Iím not an expert on this issue by any means, to realize that our weather patterns are changing, serious things are happening around our planet that just donít seem normal, and to me the whole purpose of making this movie, like I said, was to make those connections and ask people Ė the overwhelming majority of the impartial, scientific community, whatís going on? To really get some answers.

And, of course, obviously human beings have had a devastating impact on our planet and this modern globalized world we live in that has so many different possibilities. Itís just a real shame that we havenít implemented a lot of the technologies that are out there, like Kenny and everyone talks about, we could reduce our footprint on this planet by 90% with technologies that are already there and available. We donít have to invent anything new, even at this point.

MoviesOnline: With the amount of footage you have, was there any consideration of doing a miniseries on something like the Discovery Channel?

LEONARDO DICAPRIO: We donít know yet as far as thatís concerned, but this was the biggest challenge in creatively making this movie with the two ladies here, women Ė what do you like, girls, ladies or women? Okay, girls. This is a quote that I keep saying, because it was my first experience making a documentary and actually sitting for many, many hours in an editing room with them was that, ĎWhen you make a film with a narrative the director is God, when you make a documentary God is the director,í and thatís really what happened.

The experts in this movie and what they said really dictated the shape of this movie and the emotional content and the structure of this entire film, and they really gave us the tools. It was the stark realities of whatís going on in the world we live in. And for us, I think it was very much about realizing that with all these profound ideas and scientific statements that we were given, we had to make something emotional for an audience to engage in, we wanted the audience to leave there feeling slightly transformed, or slightly motivated to actually do something about it, and that was the biggest difficulty. How do you take these profound ideas and thoughts and condense them into this hour and a half format, and hopefully inspire people. So that was the filmmaking side of it all. But we were basically given the plot by these people.

MoviesOnline: Youíve spoken a lot about personal responsibility, what do you do to live green?

LEONARDO DICAPRIO: Iíve been driving a hybrid car for five, six years now. My house is built green, I have solar panels on my house, I do most of the stuff except walk to work, and I donít have a compost pile on my house, no, I donít have that, But I try to live by example as well.

At the end of the day I keep urging this, and I think this is the new thing that Iím trying to get across here, that I donít think the environmentalists, or the environmental movement, is about telling people how to live, no matter what financial background they come from, because not everyone can put solar panels on their house. Itís just not a reality.

But it is about just being aware of these global forces that are out there, and being aware in the next election, asking the right questions about what the next candidateís environmental policy is, and voting with your dollar, and being aware of these issues, I think thatís the main thing. And, of course, personal action is very important, itís important to lead by example, but until the powers that be truly, like I said earlier, infuse this into our daily way of living, I donít think anything is really going to change on a massive level.

MoviesOnline: When you talk about the powers that be, people donít change the way they do business, did you encounter any opposition or negativity, like at the Cannes Film Festival (when someone mentioned Leoís flying on a private jet)?

LEONARDO DICAPRIO: Iím sure itís bound to happen, and if this movie is a success by any standard it will happen to more of an extreme. It seems to systematically happen, and itís a way of twisting the argument, and itís a way of deflecting the argument from the bigger picture. And thatís what has traditionally happened.

Like we say in the film, you look at movements that have happened. It takes many, many years for transformation, the civil rights movements, the peace movements, these things have taken a long time. Unfortunately with this movement we have to start right now, according to the experts out there, we need to start implementing these technologies today. So as far as what we can do, everything has to come from the will of the people.

MoviesOnline: What about films in Hollywood going green?

LEONARDO DICAPRIO: What about films in Hollywood? It would be great; Iíd certainly be an advocate for it. I know that the Hollywood system itself produces a tremendous amount of waste in making these movies. This is all a part of the movement weíre talking about, from Hollywood down to the way everything is produced in this country, thatís what one of the great quotes in this movie is, ĎWe have to reinvent the way we do everything.í And you can look at that as an exciting thing or something that makes you depressed, but yeah, absolutely Iíd be the first one on board and Iíve urged it in the past, and itís difficult to make some of these things happen, it really is. When corporations and companies are set in their ways, itís difficult to make a lot of this stuff happen, but Iím certainly on board for that.

MoviesOnline: Have you decided who youíre going to campaign for next year?

LEONARDO DICAPRIO: Iím still on the fence about it to tell you the truth. Iíve yet to hear a candidate that has clearly laid out their environmental policy in a way thatís inspiring to me, and I think that thereís a lot of time left, and Iím waiting for the right questions to be asked, and these candidates to give really clear responses to what theyíre going to do in a tangible way, not a lot of rhetoric, I want to hear hardcore facts. So Iím still on the fence and Iím not sure what Iím going to do. I did support Kerry and I went to 14 different states to support Kerry in the last campaign, because I thought he had an amazing environmental policy, but Iíve yet to hear a candidate thatís compared in that regard.

MoviesOnline: The movie gives a pretty harsh critique of our society, in making this film did you ever step back and question your own world, did you ever think about giving up being an actor?

LEONARDO DICAPRIO: You know, I think that if I wasnít an actor, I donít think a film like this would be possible in the same sense. Iím very committed to being an environmentalist and Iíve devoted a lot of time to doing that and getting the message out there, but one hand sort of feeds the other here. I know that hopefully with the amount of people that have seen past works of mine, and the younger generation, will possibly go to see this movie because Iím in it, and thatís the role that Iíve played in this film, and this has been a multi-year process, and one that we put a tremendous amount of thought into. I think ultimately Iím going to continue to be an actor and hopefully do more work like this, and do more projects like this that will garner a bigger audience.

The interesting thing about that word environmentalists, there was a certain stigma with what an environmentalist was years ago, this tree hugging, granola eating hippie that goes around and flashes the peace sign all the time, and thatís a negative connotation I think in some ways, because not all of us can live that lifestyle. This is a gigantic, worldwide movement that crosses cultural boundaries, religious boundaries, it needs to be far reaching and it needs to unify all of us.

And I think even with skeptics out there, even with people that donít even believe in issues like global warming, it is such a unifying issue in the sense that, certainly for the United States, how can you argue with not wanting oil from foreign countries? How can you argue with not wanting to be energy independent? How can you argue with wanting cleaner air, cleaner water? These are fundamental human rights issues at the end of the day, and thatís why it is such a universal issue and a movement that we all should be a part of at the end of the day.

MoviesOnline: If this isnít a union film, why not?

LEONARDO DICAPRIO: It was three people in an editing room. Maybe some of the visuals in this film are confusing, but this is all stock footage, we didnít have nature crews going out there to Africa to get some of these scenic shots. This is all edited together and it was done by a lot of different favors, and my portion of what Iíve invested in this movie is all going back into non-profit organizations. Itís a different type of film in that regard. There was not a giant crew. There were people with HD cameras interviewing people in my motherís garage.

"The 11th HourĒ opens in theaters on August 17th.



11th HOUR