Leonardo DiCaprio might be the most iconic actor of our generation.
We're not sure if it's his perfect looks or his ability to literally transform himself into the character at hand, but either way, he has that presence in films that is hard to come by.
The 36-year-old stars in J. Edgar, in theaters nationwide tomorrow, November 11th and we were lucky enough to catch up with him leading up to the release of his new movie.
We got the scoop on his role and his thoughts on the re-release of Titanic.
Check out our exclusive below!
GlobalGrind: What is your biggest challenge when you take on a biopic, especially when you’re playing someone as controversial as J. Edgar Hoover was?
Leonardo DiCaprio: The biggest challenge was something that was very clearly defined in the screenplay for me and that was, how do you not necessarily sympathize, but empathize with this human being? How do you understand his motivations and how that manifested itself into politics? It was very intriguing to discover Dustin Lance Black's screenplay because here for the first time I understood what motivated him.
At a very young age his mother wanted him to rise to great power in politics and to carry on the Hoover name to great glory. He was a young boy genius and he came into this Bureau and really transformed our country and organized modern forensics. He rid our country of communist radicals and captured all of the outlaws and put a face on a federal system of police enforcement that to this day, is intimidating.
Did you grow to respect him or to like him? What were your feelings towards him after you finished this?
My politics aren’t in line with his. I think that he had a very right wing Puritan view of how to protect democracy in our country by any means necessary. But I believe that he was a great patriot and I believe that he was there to protect our country at all costs. Of course he stayed in power for way too long, which was the great tragedy of his career. 50 years and eight presidents, he should have been gone a long time ago. By the time the Civil Rights Movement was coming about and our country was changing for the better, he went ahead and tried to politically attack Martin Luther King and take down that movement and to label it as a communist uprising, which was absurd.
What makes Clint Eastwood one of the best directors around?
He is a man who implicitly trusts his own instincts and it is a pretty phenomenal thing to witness every single day. He has a very tight knit crew of people he has been working with for years, movie veterans so to speak, and he sees what he sees in his little monitor and he watches what is in front of him. He either likes it or he doesn’t and we either move on, or he gives you direction right then and there. He doesn’t have a lot of advisors and you could tell he is a man that likes to plant his feet and speak the truth and he expects you to do the same as an actor. It makes you trust your own gut as well.
How on earth did you endure that make up process?
It was probably six hours every day and it took away from some of the shooting time. It was very complicated to try and inhabit that older version of J. Edgar Hoover. And for all of the other actors too. Not just the makeup and the prosthetic, but to be able to walk into a room and talk to Robert F. Kennedy as if he was a young political upstart who didn’t know the first thing about the state of the world or politics to begin with. To have that sort of political demand was the most challenging thing. But I took a lot of inspiration from Clint too, he helped me out a lot with it and he told me how I should move and how I should act and he was the main inspiration for that.
He showed you guys how to fight. Having Clint Eastwood at 81 do a fight scene!
He isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, that’s for sure and we did that whole sequence and he brought his stunt coordinator in that he had been working with for four decades. They re-enacted our fight scene for us and Armie [Hammer] and I couldn’t help but stand there and have a huge grin on my face as we were watching that.
The scene with Judi Dench was probably the most moving in the film. That one scene, whether J. Edgar was gay or not, really showed the amount of influence that his mother had on him.
Absolutely. His mother had a tremendous amount of influence on him. I loved the way all of the relationships were handled in this movie. It was done with incredible class, because whether any of these things were requited on a physical level almost remains none of our business. What we do know is that these men committed their life in service to this country, as did Helen Ganning. None of them had a relationship with another person, no family, no love in their life. They devoted their entire lives to their country. It was a different era in time. It wouldn’t have been socially acceptable even if they were. But I just felt that it was handled with a lot of class and it still remains a mystery to this day. I couldn’t tell you either way what happened between those two.
There's a big anniversary for Titanic coming up. James Cameron is releasing it in 3D, are you excited about that?
Oh, very much so. I haven’t seen a frame of it yet, but I hear it looks fantastic and I am really looking forward to it.