AKIPRESS.COM - Hollywood-Asia, written by Los Angeles film festival executive Asel Sherniyazova, provides the most up to date and important creative and business information relating to world cinema, as well as all the latest film news and events from Hollywood.
Asel will introduce exclusive videos and interviews with the stars and recount her meetings with some of the most outstanding, talented people currently working behind the scenes of film production, such as producers, directors, cinematographers, designers, casting directors and editors. In addition she will reveal the unique stories behind the success of top industry executives involved in film journalism, sales and distribution, marketing, public relations, talent management, theatrical release and film festival management.
"For my first article in Hollywood-Asia, just ahead of the 92nd Academy Awards, I am excited to share with you an exclusive interview with actor Leonardo DiCaprio who is nominated for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his performance in Quentin Tarantino's 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood'. The interview was conducted by Serge Rakhlin, a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association which organizes the Golden Globes," Asel Sherniyazova.
It is always interesting to see a different side of an actor, usually we don’t see the process you are going through while creating your character. In this film Rick as played by you is very concerned about doing it right. In which way did you relate to that?
Immediately, although my career trajectory had taken a different course, I think that I immediately connected with Rick. It’s intrinsically somebody that I knew growing up in the industry, and in a lot of ways, he’s a man dealing with his own mortality, we are in an industry where you become sort of immortalized by film and television but he’s realizing that the culture and the industry has sort of passed him by. And it was interesting for me to go on that learning process with Quentin because he’s not only a great historian but also a cinephile and he also has this amazing appreciation for sort of B-films and television that I have never seen and I’ve never been exposed to. And there are a lot of different actors, from Ty Harden to Ed Burns to William Shatner to this guy named Ralph Meeker who I sort of clung onto as a real inspiration, somebody who I wasn’t familiar with, but had done some amazing work and one who Quentin considers one of his favorite actors of all time. And so we got to go on this sort of journey of discovery together to figure out who Rick Dalton is, because he is an actor that is slowly realizing that he may vanish. And within this two day sort of construct, I wanted to sort of convey his realization that he needs to stop feeling sorry for himself and that there is always opportunity out there and there is an ability to come back, even though time and the industry is sort of passing him by.
Hopefully we can have a little fun with this question. One of the most intriguing things is when Rick gets excited that Roman Polanski is living next door. So obviously, there are probably people that get excited that you are living next door to them, but who is your most interesting neighbor and what is your most interesting neighbor encounter?
Stan Lee lived in my neighborhood, and I got to meet him. I grew up with, my father was an underground comic distributor in Los Angeles and we used to go around in his station wagon every weekend, that was my weekend, delivering comic books to every, from “Heidi Ho” to “Golden Apple,” all over town and he was always this incredible icon to me as a child. I collected Marvel comic books, and finally getting to sit down with him and talk to him about all his amazing creations, he lived in my neighborhood and I had a few moments with him before he passed away, what an incredible person he was.
You worked with Quentin (Tarantino), you worked with Margot(Robbie), but you have not worked with Brad (Pitt), right?
Right, I haven’t.
So could you talk about the relationships you all had and particularly you and brad, how well did you know each other before, what surprised you about him?
Only peripherally. I think that we kind of share the same tapestry of understanding of film and this city and this town and growing up in the 90s, sort of having our careers sort of spark at the same time. There was an immediate understanding and a familiarity with what the genre was about, but more importantly, that relationship between a stuntman and an actor was like, that evolves beyond just being professional, they become your family, it’s a very isolating industry and you depend on these relationships. So there was a lot of discussion about our back story, Quentin gave us this amazing catalog of the films we’d done together, the stories and the encounters that we had had. So, as soon as we stepped on set the first day, we were those guys, it was a really strange experience. And he said a line to me that, on the first day that I really hearken back to, that really in a weird way defined our relationship, where he says, you know, you are Rick fucking Dalton. And I remembered that line, because that’s the type of support in this isolated industry that could be very tumultuous, that words of support is what, when the little girl comes back to me later on in the film, when I’m having that troubled day on set, those are the voices that you hear. So working with Brad was terrific. Not only is he incredibly talented but he’s made some really out of the box choices and he’s really tried to do genres of film and work with directors that are interesting and fascinating creatively. He’s a great guy, an incredible professional, incredibly talented. And there’s an ease to working with him. Do we play poker, no. (laughter) The connection we have from the past is “Growing Pains,” we were both on the television show “Growing Pains.” Him in the late 80s, me in the early 90s, but he was on I think two or three episodes of that and then I came in on the last year of “Growing Pains,” and they let me out to do my first movie when I was 15, “This Boy’s Life.” But that’s about as close as we have ever gotten to work together.
What comes to mind when you hear the word Hollywood? And do you have a favorite spot in Hollywood?
I mean so many things, my whole existence. (laughs) I grew up and was born in Hollywood, grew up by Hollywood Billiards, Hollywood and Western. What was interesting growing up in that time period is, and also seeing 1969 Hollywood, which I always had like a glamorous sort of idealized imagination of, was how downtrodden it was when he recreated 1969 Hollywood, with the tie-dye and the hippies and the head shops and this sort of subculture that was brewing. And I guess that carried into the 80s where I grew up. But interestingly enough, I always say this, the only reason that I am an actor is because I live in Hollywood. I had dreams of becoming an actor, but I never felt part of that club, it was always something that was weirdly intangible. And if it wasn’t for the sheer proximity of going to a school and having my mother drop me off to auditions, I would have never been able, I would have never uprooted myself from Iowa or Missouri, with these grand Gold Rush dreams, backpacks on, (laughs) to come to Hollywood like so many others, it was literally the fact that my mother said okay, let’s, I want to go on auditions, and she took me from school straight to auditions after school.
Do you identify in any way with your character to the way that he leaves his love life to the end and he puts his career first and marry later when he was in Italy?
I think that as far as your personal life and relationship to a career is concerned, I think much like a lot of people I did this movie with, we realized how hard it is to get that opportunity. There’s a certain level of talent that’s involved but more than anything, it’s being in the right place at the right time that opens the doorway to having that career where you get to choose your own career. So in a weird way it’s like winning the lottery, being in the right place at the right time. And so, my whole life has been a lot about not squandering that opportunity. And I think everything else naturally fits into place when it should.
You are not just a very successful actor but you are also into environmental issues and you have investments. So I would like to ask you, what have you learned about numbers and how much do you really research before you invest into something, because when you see, for example rick, he’s afraid of losing everything…
Pretty terrible to be honest, that’s why I hire other people to do that, because if I consumed by life with that, I’d be completely overwhelmed. I mean there’s the environmental, charitable stuff that I do and investment stuff, I think those are two different categories. But yeah, I’ve always known that a certain amount of financial stability also equals artistic freedom too. And that’s why I am careful, I am careful and I try not to over consume or overspend, I try to keep focused on very simple things in life and trying to do those things well, whether it be acting or philanthropy or my personal relationships, keep it simple.
What is simple?
Simple, like don’t overcomplicate life too much.
I’m very amused to see you playing an actor, and I would like to know if ever you were very disappointed with your acting? Did you throw things like him? What do you do?
I think every one of the actors that I have spoken to, certainly today, we have all had those moments, whether it be exhaustion or whatever it is, where you cannot get the line out. (laughs) I drew upon certainly personal experiences, not the aftermath of it, but physically not being able to say the line and it’s kind of like the equivalent of going to school with your underwear on. (laughter) You have this entire, so much of your job is trying to make the camera and the crew disappear and be in the moment and then the realization that everyone is watching you and you just cannot step up to the plate. So a lot of that was created with Quentin and myself to exemplify. That wasn’t in the original screenplay, that whole sequence with the messing up of the lines and then into the trailer. But I felt that since we were doing this two day slice of life, it really had to be a turning point in his career, he is realizing that time, he’s trying to adapt and realizes that things aren’t going his way, and that exemplified it for him that scene and something that I think that every actor has felt at one point or another.
Talking about the environment…at this moment there’s a glacier in the Antarctic that will separate and melt. And a hurricane is coming into New Orleans this weekend and we can name a lot of other…
Oh yeah, we can go on for a long time about this.
Are you still optimistic? Because we are all crossing our fingers.
It’s incredibly hard to be optimistic, I’ll tell you that much. Like I said, so much of my life is devoted to these issues and I get, with my foundation work and being outspoken about this stuff, I’m inundated every single day with a new cataclysmic turning point in the history of civilization, these are unprecedented moments. And it’s hard to remain optimistic. Hopefully soon an administration will come into play that, the United States, there are few players in here, there’s China, the United States, there’s India, there’s Europe, we need to step up to the plate as a country and set an example, we have been saying this for decades and decades. And I don’t know what needs to be more clear scientifically to the world community, I mean 99 percent of the scientific community is complete agreement that man’s contribution to carbon emissions is causing this. We can only hope, that’s all we can do, we can only hope and keep fighting.
In the past couple of months there were a lot of student strikes and marches about climate change. On Instagram you supported it. I was wondering why do you think these marches should work and if you can just elaborate on that?
Because our Governments and the private sector and the corporate world isn’t answering the call and look, I use my social media as a platform but there needs to be literal boots in the streets, there needs to be a revolution of sorts if we are going t change this sort of stranglehold that we’re in. Where corporate interests, and government interests supersede all. And it needs to be a voice of the people. I could go on and on about this forever and ever, but it is up to the next generation, they are the ones that are going to be affected the most and they realize that. And it sort of defies logic that we can continue to be in a culture where we allow people to defy scientific-fact, I don’t understand it. I have never seen anything like it, it doesn’t, it obviously isn’t comfortable for us, but it’s, as Al Gore put it best, an “inconvenient truth.”
The Leonard DiCaprio Foundation has been around for 20 years. Looking back, what are you most proud of, of the work you have done?
The supporting of a lot of indigenous communities, they are on the front lines for example, what is going on in Brazil right now with this new administration that wants to enter the Amazon with not only hydroelectric dam and mining and cattle farming, that would mean the disintegration of the fabric and web of life, of the last lungs of earth. And we need to support those indigenous tribes that really are the last stronghold in retaining these places from disappearing forever. And we give, I won’t talk about the specific number that we gave away, you can research that, but we gave over 200 different grassroots organizations that aren’t a part of a massive bureaucracy most of the time and supported the local communities that are fighting for not only their existence but the habitat and the bio-diversity that lives there.
You were born five years after the events described in this film. When you were growing up, what was your awareness of those days, of the music, of film, Vietnam, “fucking hippies” (quote from film) and all that?
(laughter) It’s interesting because my parents are still hippies. (laughter) And I have told this story with Brad a lot, but when all of Hollywood Boulevard for five blocks was completely redressed in 1969, they had head shops and hundreds of hippies walking up and down it when we are driving in the car. And I said to Brad that’s my dad there and he goes yeah right. (laughter) And I go no that’s really my dad and he goes, oh that’s cool that they dressed him up to look like one of the extras. I said, no, no, (laughter) he’s just visiting, that’s him with the sandals and the Hawaiian shirt and that’s his wife with the turban on and that’s how they are every day. (laughter) But talking about, I didn’t grow up in this time period but I felt connected to it because those, what happened culturally with the Manson murders was the end of the dream of the hippie/peace revolution in a lot of ways, that’s according to what my father has told me, it was the end of the dream. It was this sort of creepy mildew that was permeating, and it caused a massive amount of mistrust and it was a darkness, there was a dark tapestry there that changed that culture forever. And more importantly what that culture sort of represented globally. So, I have heard a lot about it, I have heard a lot about it from my parents.
In the film there are some reference to your character with Clint Eastwood, he was a TV star and then went to Italy to make Spaghetti Westerns as Rick did. Did you ever talk to the director and discuss whether to have a conversation with Clint Eastwood?
No. I think there was a lot in the movie that was cut out as far as the back story and literally dozens of people that we reference. But to Rick, who is a bit of a narcissist, the idea of going to Italy to shoot the great American Western is an absolute travesty to him, not realizing that many of the great actors and directors of our time made their bones there and it became a sort of subgenre that propelled people to stardom. At this time, he sees it as the ultimate sell out. Which was a weird thing to sort of wrap my head around, having seen what has happened historically. But we didn’t speak to Clint about it, there were so many other reference points, I had this speech at this one time that talked about all the different… Al and I sat down but it didn’t make the movie. But I think it’s all said when he goes to the car and he goes what’s the matter, I’ve got to do spaghetti westerns, that’s the goddamned problem. (laughs)
How did the film resonate with you on a personal level about the vagaries of fame: how fame can be fleeting and how there are many other struggling actors trying to make it here.
A lot of my friends are actors, and I know the percentile of like I said, hitting the Lotto ball to be able, to be a working actor and also be in control of your own destiny artistically, it’s literally like hitting the lottery. And I know and implicitly understand this because I have friends that are working in this industry and continue to struggle to try to pave their way. And I also know as you mentioned that a career is fleeting, I have always, for whatever reason, when I was very young I looked at it as a long distance race, you have to pace yourself, you want to look at a career hopefully at the end of your life that’s expansive and you also know there’s times where you are going to be more or less popular and you have to wade through those times with an intent to keep doing good work. But like I said, I didn’t need to have lived Rick Dalton’s life to understand what he was going through. I understood it because I think there’s attributes of self-doubt in him that are universal in all of us. Whether I have freak outs like him or not, that’s a different story. (laughs) But it’s universal, sort of realizing that we are all mortal.