Leonardo DiCaprio: King of the World?
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.