Dressed in a black buttoned-down shirt, clean-shaven, with his hair slicked back, DiCaprio looked handsome and relaxed as he met with the press in LA to talk about his work on one of the most-anticipated films of 2004, "The Aviator:"
Interview with Leonardo DiCaprio:What was it about Howard Hughes that fascinated you?
As an actor, youre constantly searching for that great character. And, being a history buff and learning about people in our past and amazing things that theyve done, I came across a book of Howard Hughes and he was set up basically as like the most multi-dimensional character I could ever come across. Often people have tried to define him in biographies. No one seems to be able to categorize him. He was one of the most complicated men of the last century. And so I got this book, brought it to Michael Mann, and John Logan came onboard and really came up with the concept of saying, You can do ten different movies about Howard Hughes. Lets focus on his younger years. Lets watch his initial descent into madness but meanwhile, have the backdrop of early Hollywood, these daring pioneers in the world of aviation that were like astronauts that went out and risked their lives to further the cause of aviation.
[Hughes was] the first American billionaire who had all the resources in the world but was somehow unable to find any sense of peace or happiness. Its that great see-saw act in the movie that goes on. On one side, hes having all the successes in the world. And on the other side the tiny microbes and germs are the things that are taking him downwards, because of his OCD and being a germaphobe.
Could you relate to any of the things?
Relate? I think he certainly took things farther than I could ever imagine. He was such an obsessed human being. He was so obsessive about everything hed gotten involved with, whether it be planes or women or the films that he made. And that is the direct result of his OCD. I wouldnt go to those extremes but certainly, the Hells Angels sequence, being a part of films that have gone on for many, many months and youre sitting there with the director trying to get things perfect and do things over and over and over again, that was something that I think Scorsese and I immediately identified with.
Do you see any other parallels between Howard Hughes fear of celebrity and
any paranoias in your own personal and professional life?
I have to say, you know, Im, for the most part, a pretty private person but his came, like I said, from a genuine mental disorder and Im just fundamentally not like that. My reasons for being a private person are different from Mr. Hughes. Mine are because Im an actor and I want people to believe me in different roles and not necessarily know way too much about me. I want to be around in the business for a long time, and he had an intense fear of being around people and germs, as displayed very well in the film.
Can you talk about your relationship with Mr. Scorsese and what he might have brought to
What Im going to say is going to sound like a cliché but I can not tell a lie. He is every actors dream to work with. Hes the man in the business that you can unanimously ask any actor of any age range, and they want to work with this man because he is not only one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, but he is like a film historian. Hes a professor of film. The man has seen almost every film ever made up until 1980. You get an education while working with him every single day. He screens movies for you to talk about specific scenes and what hes trying to convey up on the screen. You can ask him a question about a character or the way a scene should go and he can show you 20 different examples of filmmakers that have done that in the past, the way its been done right, the way its been done wrong. And its an incredible learning experience.
But, for us, having this huge sort of generational gap, we actually found that we fundamentally share the same tastes in a lot of different things. Not just film, but music and art. And we dislike a lot of the same things, and like a lot of the same things. We have a great work ethic together. We get along.
Weve had marathon rehearsal sessions and sometimes those can be arduous if people dont enjoy that process but his whole criteria, the thing that he does so well is hes so persistent on making everything he does an authentic as possible. So, he loves to have actors come to the table with an array of different information and different new ideas and challenging things. He welcomes that more than anyone else Ive ever worked with. For this movie, and all the research I did, we certainly did a lot of that.