Leonardo DiCaprio on Finding the “Psyche and Confidence” of His Character in Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’

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“I grew up in this industry, I have a lot of friends who are actors, and there’s so much talent out there. But it really boils down to being at the right place at the right time.” – Leonardo DiCaprio

Of Academy Award-winner Leonardo DiCaprio‘s many acclaimed roles, one of his most celebrated was his role as the sadistic plantation owner Calvin Candie in Quentin Tarantino‘s 2012 film Django Unchained. DiCaprio and Tarantino recently reunited for Tarantino’s latest film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, in which DiCaprio portrays Rick Dalton, an actor whose television Western heyday has past and is struggling to get roles in the emerging New Hollywood era. In an interview with his co-star Brad Pitt for the New York Times, DiCaprio speaks about connecting with a character that — quite unlike him — is unable to find success in Hollywood

In order to help DiCaprio portray a journeyman Western actor facing his career decline in the late 1960s, Tarantino showed DiCaprio a number of films that featured similar actors from that era. He reveals, “We had a screening of a multitude of B films that I had never heard of, a lot of 1960s television with actors like Ralph Meeker and Ty Hardin. These guys could have been McQueen-esque, but didn’t make the transition from black and white television, especially westerns, to career-makers like The Great Escape. So it was almost like a love story to them. Did they get that one opportunity? No, that may have passed them by. So let’s start talking about your character, what he might have been, what he’s struggling with as a working-class guy in the industry who has been playing the heavy from television show to television show. What that does to his psyche and his confidence?”

While DiCaprio has become a major movie star over the past two decades, he can sympathize with other actors who have plenty of talent but didn’t land their break break. He explains, “I grew up in this industry, I have a lot of friends who are actors, and there’s so much talent out there. But it really boils down to being at the right place at the right time.”

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