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Jul. 19 2010 - 8:38 am | 1,273 views | 1 recommendation | 9 comments

Leonardo DiCaprio: King of the World?

LOS ANGELES, CA - JULY 13:  (L-R) Actress Elle...

DiCaprio and his Inception A-team: Ellen Page, Marion Cotillard and Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Twelve days ago, on this very blog, I asked, Will Inception finally get Leonardo DiCaprio and Oscar past first base? We’ll have to wait until early next year to find out if he scores, but Inception’s $60.4 million opening weekend (DiCaprio’s best ever — yes, even better than Titanic, which, in all fairness, opened with $28.6 million on 1,100 fewer screens at 1997 movie-ticket prices) was good for at least one confirmation: Leonardo DiCaprio has quietly become one of the most bankable movie stars in Hollywood.

Will Smith, Adam Sander, Johnny Depp, Sandra Bullock, Meryl Streep, meet the competition.

Despite its huge buzz, $100 million marketing campaign and excellent reviews before pulling out of the starting gate, some wondered if Inception would prove to be too confusing for massive mass consumption, citing the intricate plot (blink and you might miss the key to understanding the entire thing) and unexpected twists and turns. Not even DiCaprio’s A-list name above the title made it a sure thing. If it ended up making money, some reasoned, it would be from word of mouth, over a span of weeks, or months.

Boy did Inception and DiCaprio prove them wrong. Not only did they outdo the prognostications, but those aforementioned twists and turns most likely will help Inception build nicely in the coming weeks with both word-of-mouth and repeat business padding its intake. A $200 million-plus final North American gross is not only a possibility —  it’s a likelihood, one that would make the film’s $160 million price tag more than worth it.

Even leaving Titanic out of the equation, DiCaprio has produced the goods before at the box office. Though his focus since Titanic — and throughout his career since he made the leap from Growing Pains to the big screen — has been more on quality over quantity with highly esteemed directors (Martin Scorcese, who’s directed him in four films, Steven Spielberg, Sam Mendes, Inception’s Christopher Nolan), he’s enjoyed several major successes. Between 2002 and 2006, he scored four for four at the box office with Gangs of New York ($77.8 million), Catch Me If You Can ($164.6 million), The Aviator ($102.6 million) and The Departed ($132.4 million).

In fact, of the 12 films DiCaprio has starred in since Titanic, there only have been a few total duds: Celebrity’s $5 million take was meager, even for a Woody Allen movie, while 2008 was a particularly bleak year, with both Revolutionary Road ($22.9 million, despite boasting what I consider to be one of DiCaprio’s strongest performances) and Body of Lies ($39.4 million) underperforming at the box office. (Although his Revolutionary Road and Titanic costar Kate Winslet would go on to finally win her Oscar for that year’s The Reader, it must have been no consolation for DiCaprio.)

But 2010 is looking to possibly be DiCaprio’s Sandra Bullock moment. Last year, Bullock was queen, with back-to-back hits (The Proposal and The Blind Side); this year, DiCaprio is king — if not of the world, at least of Hollywood. If he doesn’t start asking for more than $20 million a film, he should.

Though he probably doesn’t need career advice, were I to give him some, it would be to branch out. Relax. Lighten up. Every movie doesn’t have to be crazy intense boasting the performance of a lifetime. If I were DiCaprio, just to prove to everyone that I can indeed do everything, I’d find a high-quality comedy and book it for my next film. Look what discovering comedy has done for Meryl Streep — his Marvin’s Room mom — in the second half of her career. DiCaprio rarely gets to crack a smile onscreen, and comedy is the one genre in which he has yet to prove himself.

I hear Sandra Bullock is in the market for a post-Oscar project. Picture it: DiCaprio and Bullock, together for the first time. It could be the worst idea of all time or Hollywood’s biggest romantic pairing ever. And if nothing else, it would be nice, for once, to laugh at DiCaprio.


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  1. collapse expand

    I so don’t want to see Leo in a comedy. That feels so . . . wrong.
    Now, how about Sandra in a balls-out drama? Yes to that!

    • collapse expand

      But why does it feel so wrong? Look what comedy did for Johnny Depp in the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. I think Leo’s doing a comedy would challenge people’s perception of him, and it would also allow him to stretch artistically, step out of his comfort zone. I’m not saying he needs to do The Hangover 2, but he can pick a smart comedy with a good script and top-level director.

      As for Sandra Bullock, people peg her as a rom-com actress, and for good reason. Though The Blind Side was technically a drama, I don’t think Bullock’s performance in it was especially dramatic. But she has done balls-out dramatic acting before. Did you see 28 Days? The movie was flawed, yes, but I think her dramatic performance here was underrated and overlooked. And there was nothing comedic about her bit part in Crash. Even her few movies before The Proposal — Premonition, The Lake House — were dramas. So were Murder By Numbers, The Net, Hope Floats. Okay, most of these were not particularly acclaimed, but it’s not a question of whether she can do drama but whether she can find a good one to do.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  2. collapse expand

    DiCaprio looks like he may be the greatest actor of all time if he keeps his head together, from “The Sunshine Boys”, (he’s) your still young!

  3. collapse expand

    For years I’ve been biased against Leonardo DiCaprio because of Titanic. I hated Titanic, big box office success or not. I couldn’t work my way through Catch Me If You Can, The Departed or Gangs of New York, because I kept seeing him yell “I’m the king of the world!” and cringing in my seat. And the thing is, I recognized that he was acting well in those movies, and that he wasn’t that actor who had annoyed me so much in 1997.

    Then my brother told me that Inception was good, and he dragged me to see it last night. And let me tell you, I may actually be able to admire DiCaprio’s work in Gangs of New York now. I think I’ll go watch Shutter Island.

    And I really hope he finally wins that Oscar. Inception was perfect.

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