I’m going to start off by throwing my views right out there – in my opinion, Leonardo DiCaprio is the greatest actor of the modern age. His style and range are conveyed amazingly in many breathtaking performances, from his early beginnings in This Boy’s Life in which he starred alongside the legendary Robert De Niro and the hugely-acclaimed What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? alongside Johnny Depp and Juliette Lewis, DiCaprio picked up an Oscar nomination for the latter, the Best Supporting Actor award ended up going to Tommy Lee Jones for his role in The Fugitive. My point here is that even very early on in his career, Leonardo DiCaprio showed the potential to be an awards smash, the critics and the audiences sure loved him, but if you look closer into his career, it seems the Academy do not…
The movie that was very probably responsible for really throwing him into the spotlight and launching his career into dizzying heights was one of the most successful films of all time, in every sense of the word, Titanic. It won eleven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director and only missed out on winning three awards, they were for Best Actress in a Leading Role (Kate Winslet), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Gloria Stewart) and Best Make-up. So amongst all of the awards, whether Titanic won them or not, Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance received not a single bit of recognition from the Academy (The Best Actor Oscar for that year was won by Jack Nicholson for his incredible performance in As Good As It Gets).
DiCaprio followed up Titanic with a string of well received roles in movies such as Danny Boyle’s The Beach and Martin Scorsese’s Gangs Of New York which was nominated for ten Academy Awards, such as Best Actor in a Leading Role (Daniel Day-Lewis), Best Director and even Best Picture (which it lost out to Chicago), but won nothing on the night. My point here is that yet again, Leonardo DiCaprio starred in a hugely acclaimed movie, gave a hugely acclaimed performance and was ignored by the Academy once more. Another film released that year was Catch Me If You Can (directed by Steven Spielberg), a stunning true story about Frank Abagnale Jr., who, started at the age of sixteen, and committed cheque fraud for over $2.5 million and forged careers as a doctor, a lawyer and an airline co-pilot, the movie was nominated for two Oscars, including Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Christopher Walken), but yet again, Leonardo DiCaprio went unnoticed, however, to me this is definitely one of his finest performances of his career so far. Even two-time Best Actor winner Tom Hanks was not nominated for this film, which I think should have been in the running for Best Picture as well.
A few years later Leonardo DiCaprio took the role of Howard Hughes in his second team-up with Martin Scorsese, The Aviator was a very well-received box office smash and it earned DiCaprio his second of three Academy Award nominations. It ended up winning five of it’s eleven nominations that night, losing out on Best Picture to Clint Eastwood’s incredible Million Dollar Baby, and the Best Actor award was eventually won by Jamie Foxx for his portrayal of jazz musician Ray Charles in Ray, but taking home the Best Actress in a Supporting Role trophy for Cate Blanchett’s performance as Hughes’ love interest (and four time Best Actress winner, funny enough) Katharine Hepburn. Also losing out on Best Actor that year was DiCaprio’s What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? co-star Johnny Depp for his performance as Peter Pan author J.M. Barrie in Finding Neverland.
The next year, Leonardo DiCaprio found himself once again nominated for the Best Actor Oscar for playing Danny Archer in the critically raved Blood Diamond, losing out to a film he starred in, Martin Scorsese’s simply incredible The Departed, a film I think Leonardo DiCaprio would have perhaps been awarded Best Actor if he has decided to go on the Oscar promotion trail with that instead of Blood Diamond as it is, in my opinion, his best film and performance to date. The Departed was the big winner at the 2007 Academy Awards, picking up Best Picture and Best Director (as well as two others, it’s only losing nomination was Mark Wahlberg being beaten to Best Supporting Actor by Alan Arkin for Little Miss Sunshine) But this brings us to what is probably the most confusing part of his Oscar story…
Three of his recent films were left pretty unacknowledged at the last two Oscars ceremonies, Revolutionary Road, his second pairing with Titanic co-star Kate Winslet only received three nominations, one was for Michael Shannon (Best Actor in a Supporting Role, won by Heath Ledger for his role as The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight), the film should have been up for Best Picture in my opinion (Although on the year of Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire, a win would have been a definite wildcard). Despite the underwhelming success of the brilliant Revolutionary Road, Kate Winslet found herself picking the the Academy award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for her performance as Hanna Schmidt in Bernard Schlink’s The Reader.
The next year, Leonardo DiCaprio shined in the leading role in his fourth pairing with director Martin Scorsese, Shutter Island was another box office hit which critics praised but received no Oscar nominations at all, which was a shock when you look at Leonardo DiCaprio’s performance as Detective Teddy Daniels, for me, Shutter Island is one of the greatest thrillers of the modern era.
DiCaprio soon followed Shutter Island with what has surely got to be one of the greatest achievements in cinematic history, Christopher Nolan’s Inception pushed the boundaries of modern cinema with it’s intense storyline and breathtaking visual effects, as well as shining performances from the entire cast. Inception was nominated for eight Academy awards (Each for effects, none for acting) and walked away with four of the trophies. I still do not understand why Leonardo DiCaprio (or any cast member for that matter) was no nominated for an acting trophy. DiCaprio’s portrayal of Cobb was intense, yet very sensitive and quiet, you knew there was more to Cobb’s past from the off, and I think Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the only actors in the world strong enough to display that much emotion on screen.
So where does it go from here? Next month is the US release of DiCaprio’s new movie J. Edgar, which is a biopic about FBI founder and rumoured closeted homosexual, J. Edgar Hoover. The movie is directed by Clint Eastwood and also stars Naomi Watts and Armie Hammer. It is a fact that Eastwood seems to have a good standing with the Oscars committee, he has spawned two Best Picture Oscars for Unforgiven and Million Dollar Baby – both of which also earned him Best Director Oscars. For me, this could be Leonardo DiCaprio’s best chance yet to win Best Actor in a Leading Role, for a film I expect to be huge and sweep the Oscars board, it’s exactly what the Academy seems to love, a biopic about a figure with huge influence on the US today, directed and produced by veteran and Hollywood legend Clint Eastwood.
Or who knows, maybe Leonardo DiCaprio will be the best there never was, but I believe that there’s something the Oscar critics have against the work he produces, he’s earned the title of Best Actor in my mind time and time again, but as I say, this very well could be his year…