Is Leonardo DiCaprio difficult to work with?
You can count on two fingers the number of times DiCaprio has collaborated with a filmmaker on multiple films: Martin Scorsese (on numerous projects) and Baz Luhrmann. On the flip side, you’d need an abacus to tally the number of high-profile directors who hired DiCaprio once and never went back for seconds. James Cameron (TITANIC), Woody Allen (CELEBRITY), Steven Spielberg (CATCH ME IF YOU CAN), and Danny Boyle (THE BEACH) are just a few names that come to mind. Boyle’s one-off feature with DiCaprio premieres Saturday, November 3, on Sundance Channel, and was the film that got us contemplating this topic.
DiCaprio’s a talented actor — few could argue the fact. A three-time Oscar nominee, DiCaprio has played angry spouses, terrifying undercover cops, and historical figures. He’s quite good in Boyle’s BEACH, playing an adventurous American searching for an island paradise who bites off more than he can chew with his self-serving quest.
His ability to inhabit conflicted characters makes him a worthy collaborator. Ever since DiCaprio first burst onto the scene in Lasse Hallstrom’s WHAT’S EATING GILBERT GRAPE, almost all of Hollywood’s elite filmmakers have wanted to work with this talent. Yet, the select directors who have received the opportunity don’t elect to do it a second time. A thorough examination of his resume suggests a pattern. I’m beginning to wonder the cause.
Is DiCaprio difficult to work with? A diva on set? We don’t know. He’s a private dude who stays out of the tabloids (as much as possible). Those who go on record to talk about working with DiCaprio sing his praises. Kate Winslet so enjoyed making TITANIC with the young star that they circled back to the challenging REVOLUTIONARY ROAD years later. Scorsese obviously adores DiCaprio. The MEAN STREETS director has made five films with his handsome lead, starting with 2002’s GANGS OF NEW YORK. Their next picture – THE WOLF OF WALL STREET – will be in theaters next year.
But there are too many directors who worked with DiCaprio once, and only once, to ignore the trend. Often, DiCaprio works with filmmakers who routinely bring actors back for subsequent films. Sir Ridley Scott, who made BODY OF LIES with DiCaprio in 2008, recently went on a run with Russell Crowe. He also saw something he liked in PROMETHEUS star Michael Fassbender; the two are working on THE COUNSELOR as we speak.
INCEPTION director Christopher Nolan regularly brings members of his ensemble back for multiple films. He squeezed Joseph Gordon Levitt and Marion Cotillard into THE DARK KNIGHT RISES. He kept Christian Bale on staff for THE PRESTIGE. And yet, INCEPTION is DiCaprio’s only film with Nolan.
DiCaprio’s next film, DJANGO UNCHAINED, finds him working with Quentin Tarantion – a director who makes it a point to recruit former collaborators, from Samuel L. Jackson to Lucy Liu and Christoph Waltz. It’s too soon to tell if Tarantino will be the next high-powered director to go “one-and-done” with DiCaprio. We’ll be watching the casting decisions on future QT projects with interest.
At the very least, Tarantino would be in esteemed company if he decides – much like Spielberg, Sam Raimi, Clint Eastwood, Sam Mendes and Ed Zwick – that once around the track with DiCaprio is more than enough.