Page last updated at 08:39 GMT, Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Golden boy DiCaprio comes of age

By Neil Smith
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

Actor Leonardo DiCaprio talks about his latest film Body of Lies, reuniting with his Titanic co-star Kate Winslet - and his delight at the victory of US President-elect Barack Obama.

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Eight years ago, Leonardo DiCaprio was in Rome to shoot Gangs of New York, his first of four collaborations with acclaimed film director Martin Scorsese.

It was there that the actor witnessed what he describes as the "debacle" of George W Bush's electoral victory over former Vice-President Al Gore.

Two weeks ago, he was back in the city for the Italian premiere of his latest film Body of Lies, and stayed up all night to see Barack Obama named America's next commander-in-chief.

"It was an overwhelming, resounding victory," smiles the actor and environmentalist, who celebrated his 34th birthday on 11 November. "I couldn't be more excited.

"It's up to our country now to support him in every way we can," adds the Oscar-nominated star of The Aviator, Blood Diamond and The Departed.


"I think the rest of the world has been looking for somebody as the head of the United States to manifest some real changes."

After travelling across Europe to promote Body of Lies, a complex thriller about a covert CIA agent operating in the Middle East, the actor said he had found the reaction to Obama's triumph particularly gratifying.

Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio
Body of Lies sees him share the screen with actor Russell Crowe (left)
"It's beautiful to see how supportive the rest of the world has been," he explains. "It's been more profound than I ever could have imagined."

Ten years ago, when DiCaprio was still basking in his post-Titanic fame, it is hard to imagine his opinions on the US presidency would have been as repeatedly courted as they were during his recent visit to London.

Back then, the Hollywood-born actor was better known for his late-night carousing and romantic dalliances than for any political insights he might offer.

But in the past decade, the erstwhile pin-up has effectively reinvented himself as a respected actor of note who has worked with some of the industry's most revered film-makers.


He has used his celebrity to campaign tirelessly for environmental issues, most notably as producer and narrator of 2007 documentary The 11th Hour.

"He's come into his own," agrees British director Sir Ridley Scott, who sought out DiCaprio to play Body of Lies' conflicted hero Roger Ferris. "He's come to full maturity with great success.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in Revolutionary Road
DiCaprio will soon be appearing with Winslet (right) in Revolutionary Road
"He's one of the biggest stars in the United States, he's a fantastic actor and the girls still love him."

Ask DiCaprio how he feels about the screaming hordes who flocked to the film's recent UK premiere, however, and you get a qualified response.

"Most of the time it's an out-of-body experience," he shrugs. "It's fantastic to get a reaction like that, but it feels like it's another person sometimes."

He dismisses the notion that his character's undercover activities in Body of Lies - which also stars Russell Crowe as the cynical CIA veteran who supervises Ferris from afar - echo with his own profession.

"The level of angst Roger goes through and the life-and-death situations that are put in front of him are nothing like my life," he grins.

"As much as the decisions I have to make can be stressful at times, it's something I could never compare myself to."


With the film awards season fast approaching, DiCaprio is already being touted as a potential nominee.

It is not his performance in Body of Lies that has provoked speculation, though, but his upcoming role as a young husband and father in 1950s drama Revolutionary Road.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in Titanic
DiCaprio and Winslet previously acted together in 1997 blockbuster Titanic
Based on the novel by the late Richard Yates, the BBC co-production sees him reunited with Kate Winslet for the first time since their 1997 blockbuster Titanic.

How did DiCaprio find working with the British actress again, this time under the watchful eye of her director husband Sam Mendes?

"Sam made it very comfortable for both of us," he says. "But Kate and I are such good friends that it felt very natural anyway.

"Of course, we both knew all the stuff that would come with us working together again.

"But we said to ourselves, you know what? We love to work with each other, we love the material - let's not let anything get in the way of that."

Body of Lies is out in the UK on 21 November. Revolutionary Road will be released on 30 January 2009.

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