MTV-Interview by Chris Connelly - Spring 2000
(This photo was taken in 1998)
Chris Connelly (MTV): What are you listening to? I want to know what CDs you brought here.
Leonardo DiCaprio: I didnīt bring any CDs here.
LD: Iīm trying to think whatīs my latest. I buy CDs, and they always get scratched up and lost, and then you have to buy them over and over and over and over again. So I just bought, you know, Bill Withers and Stevie Wonder, which I have bought, like 30 times. But like, nothing new, man.
MTV: Youīve got to stop using them as drink coasters. You donīt have the O.D.B. record? You donīt have the DMX record?
LD: I have all these, yeah. Absolutely, yeah.
MTV: Kicking them hard?
LD: But I didnīt buy those last.
MTV: (Laughs): All sounds good. So why this movie? You could have made any movie in the universe, practically. Why was this the story you waned to tell right now?
LD: A lot of reasons. You know, itīs something I really connected with in a weird way. I love the theme of the movie. I love what it was trying to say about society nowadays and how everythingīs sort of become Westernized, and weīre so saturated with all this digital information and media, and we canīt escape it. The whole world is completely Americanized, essentially, and this character goes off in a real courageous way. He wants to escape all that and really get in touch with some sort of real emotion or do something on a real level. Wether it be dangerous or not, he finds this tropical pirate-like Utopia, which seems to be the answer to everything heīs ever dreamed. And I really identified with that.
MTV: This is like a classical male story, isnīt it? Just this story of the guy going out in search of the great ...
LD: A great adventurer.
MTV: Did it touch you in that way too? Is it fun to make a movie that had a lot of maleness to it?
LD: A lot of maleness to it. (Laughs) No, absolutely, man. I love that this was a truly modern character, in a lot of different ways. I mean, not to speak about my generation or the generation before me or anything like that, but he really is a modern character. Heīs a true human being. Heīs constantly contradicting himself, and throughout the course of the movie he changes. He transforms into many different things, which I thought was really interesting.
MTV: And the movie sort of stirs up a lot of the traditions of romance or romantic films and then...
LD: Dismisses them.
MTV: Subverts them, very dramatically. Was that something that was really appealing to you?
LD: I love the fact that the film takes different directions too. It goes for something obvious and all of a sudden it goes in a completely different direction. Which I loved.
MTV: Had you been a fan of the book?
LD: Yeah, I read the book beforehand. I loved it.
MTV: Were you worried about the way they sort of amped out the romantic aspect of your character from the book to the movie
LD: No, I wasnīt worried about it. I think the book was written in a way that it was almost like a journal of the way the guyīs psyche... it was like his embodiment of this character named Daffy, who sort of represented all the negative parts of what paradise is. It would be hard to do the film just like the book, I think. I think that they had to take much firmer directions and make better... not better decisions, but more concrete decisions, character-wise, and compound some things.
MTV: When you Thailand, were you struck by the omnipresence of American popular culture? Does that seem a little weird, when you go that far afield?
LD: Yeah. I had no idea, especially reading the book the first time. The whole backpack culture thatīs out there. Itīs unbelievable. I mean, itīs just like this pack of locusts, these tourists that go around the world and infiltrate these different cultures and try to get involved with them and be a part of them, and meanwhile theyīre just bringing everything from home to these different islands and making it a giant tourist vacation spot. Which is unbelievable. But I had no idea that there were so many tourists in Thailand that were still trying to live some sort of, you know, hippie life, nomadic existence. I had no idea until I read the book.
MTV: Was there any appeal for you to going that far away and trying to find a spot where your face was not as well known as it may be everywhere else in the world?
LD: No. (Laughs) No, that wasnīt the appeal, but certainly being in Thailand and experiencing that whole culture, I thought was interesting. But more so than that, I was doing the story and working with Danny Boyle, who I thought was one of the most interesting filmmakers out there.
MTV: So what has the last two years been like for you? Can anyone aside from Michael Jordan understand what itīs been like?
LD: (Laughs) Itīs been weird in a lot of ways, but you adapt. No matter what happens to you in life, on a small or large scale, you have to adapt to the circumstances that youīre given, and thatīs what I have done, and itīs been a huge learning process for me. Itīs focused me in a lot of different ways, more so than ever before, (on) not necessarily where I want to go, but how I want to do things. Itīs been strange at times, absolutely, but I wouldnīt give it up for the world. Iīve honestly been blessed with the opportunities. Iīm extremely thankful for that, and I wouldnīt give it up for the anything.
MTV: You wouldnīt give it up for anything?
LD: No, I wouldnīt.
MTV: Just to be able to walk down the street?
LD: No, no, no, no. īCause I still do that! I still walk down the street.
MTV: (Laughs) You have a huge audience of young women, whoīve loved your last two movies. Girls 13, 14, 15 years old. How do you feel about them, and how do yoe feel about them seeing this one?
LD: Well, I think it would be underestimating them as an audience and their intelligence to not think that an actorīs not going to take different types of roles. This character is somebody that is neither a hero or villain, you know what I mean? Heīs a human being that contradicts himself, and I think itīs a great character to watch, to watch his transformation throughout the course of the movie. I think Iīd be underestimating them if I were to go do the same thing over and over again.
MTV: Have you felt oppressed by their kind of affection for you, though? Have you felt hemmed in at all by the...
LD: At times, you get the fleeting thoughts of "Uh-Oh", but no, no. No, because Iīve always known what Iīve wanted to do as an actor, and I wanted to take chances, and thatīs all. Thatīs all I really wanted to do. "Titanic" was something that in its own right was a chance.. It was something that Iīd never done before, and it was experimenting in a lot of different ways. And itīs not to say that I wonīt try something like that again, I donīt know. But that was much more different than what Iīm doing now.
MTV: What do you think the greatest misunderstanding about you is right now?
LD: Hmm. I donīt know. Let me think about that. Maybe the fact that it upset me a little bit that during the whole year of, you know, (focusing on) the next project that I was going to do, that maybe I wasnīt focused on my career. That I was sort of slacking off in a lot of different ways and just wanted to live it up and have a good time, when that certainly wasnīt the case. It was just a matter of me truly finding something that I connected with project-wise and then giving that my all. And I think that kind of stuff may affect you in the long term, career-wise. If people have that perception of you. When that, for me, thatīs not the case whatsoever.
MTV: When you think about the projects you want to do, do you think in terms of the people you want to work with? A man like Martin Scorsese, or a guy like Danny Boyle?
LD: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, who wouldnīt want to work with Martin Scorsese and Danny Boyle? But more so than that, itīs connecting with the material and connecting with the character.
MTV: Is that the key thing for you, finding some sort of personal bond?
LD: Itīs not. Itīs not necessarily a personal bond, but itīs something that speaks to you in a weird way. I donīt necessarily need to have a close relationship with whatīs going on mentally in the characterīs head or be similar to that character, but it needs to say something. Much like you can read a book about something thatīs a complete departure from who you are, but still find something in there that you identify with or find intriguing.
MTV: And what you must have liked about this guy was, as you say, he wasnīt hero or villain, but he lies a lot. There are a lot of things that people will not like about him in some respects.
LD: Yeah, heīs a human being. (Laughs)
MTV: And that was the fun part, was sort of being able to play both sides against the middle a little bit.
LD: Absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. I love the part where he sort of becomes obsessed with isolation and heīs constantly looking for a more hardcore experience, and once he has everything, he dismisses all that and wants to plunge even deeper, and he becomes obsessed with isolation. And even the beach community, which is almost like the answer to everything you could dream, becomes too structured for him, and he wants to go off into another different distant place, but heīs like a true adventurer. True traveller. Heīs not a tourist.