In 1993 a 19-year old actor named Leonardo DiCaprio was on the radar of many filmmakers in Hollywood, and the world. He had a part in Michael Caton-Jones ‘This Boy’s life’ next to Robert De Niro and Ellen Barkin, and Lasse Hallstrom’s ‘What’s eating Gilbert Grape’ next to Johnny Depp and Juliette Lewis. Of all these excellent and consumed actors, he was the one nominated for an academy award for playing a teenager with a severe mental condition. Suddenly, he was the next best thing.
DiCaprio followed his promising breakout roles with his participation in Sam Raimi’s western ‘The Quick and the Dead’, Scott Kalvert’s ‘The Basketball Diaries’ and Agnieszka Holland’s daring ‘Total Eclipse’, but his talent, combined with his looks as a romantic figure led him to two of his most well known works in blockbuster films: Baz Luhrman’s ‘Romeo + Juliette’ and James Cameron’s ‘Titanic’.
‘Titanic’ may have been DiCaprio’s best and worst career move. Best because it turned him into an instant mega star, and worst because he has spent most of his later career shaking that image off of him. After all, he started out as a character actor and his choices are always subject to the quality of the character and film and not to the financial prospects. To prove this, the next starring role after tragically dying in freezing waters next to Kate Winslet was in Danny Boyle’s ‘The Beach’, not particularly a favorite for teenagers of the world.
DiCaprio was lucky to run into Martin Scorsese and form a lasting alliance. Here was a director he respected above all, who is not afraid of presenting characters in their true light, not always the pretty one. So, any list of DiCaprio’s best performances has to include more than a couple of collaborations with Marty, which balances his performances in Clint Eastwood’s ‘J. Edgar’, Christopher Nolan’s ‘Inception’, Edward Zwich’s, ‘Blood Diamond’ (for which he was nominated to an Oscar) and Ridley Scott’s ‘Body of Lies’.
Nevertheless, DiCaprio is conscious of his star persona, the extreme charisma he exudes as a magnet to moviegoers, and he has used it in films like Woody Allen’s ‘Celebrity’, Steven Spielberg’s ‘Catch Me If You Can’ and Baz Luhrman’s ‘The Great Gatsby’
What’s always surprising about DiCaprio is his professionalism and his eye for a good film. Here’s a list of some of his best performances.