With The Great Gatsby just out and The Wolf of Wall Street on the way, it got me thinking about the career of the lead in both; one Leonardo DiCaprio.
Talk about an impressive CV. Since the early ’90s, he’s dazzled us with a wide range of performances across numerous genres. His filmography reads like a cinephiles ‘best films of the last 20 years’ collection.
And as such I’d like to respectfully nod to his performances that have not only stood out but also stood the test of time. Therefore let’s commence with the first in a series of ‘cinematic living legend’ posts, paying tribute to my favourite roles and performances from actors that just keep on getting better and better.
- Kid – The Quick and the Dead (1995)
Young, cocky, but with undeniable screen presence in Sam Raimi’s western, little Leo comfortably held the screen alongside big names: Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe and Sharon Stone.
- Jim Carroll – The Basketball Diaries (1995)
His first performance that truly blew me away. When this came out I was 13 and loved basketball. Admittedly the gradual descent into drugs and sleeping rough on the streets was something to which I couldn’t as readily relate.
- Frank Abagnale Jr – Catch Me If You Can (2002)
With Gangs out quite soon after, this was an impressive year for Leo. This time going toe-to-toe with Tom Hanks with Spielberg at the helm. Bit of a dream partnership resulting in a fantastic performance and movie.
- Amsterdam Vallon – Gangs of New York (2002)
Whilst DiCaprio’s star was flying high by this point, it was never going to be easy going up against a true heavyweight of cinema in Daniel Day Lewis. Nonetheless, his performance as Amsterdam was highly watchable.
- Howard Hughes – The Aviator (2004)
A consummate and wholly engrossing performance at the top of his game. He got Hughes’s mannerisms and tics spot on. Watch this original footage of Hughes then compare it to Leo’s similar scene – a master at work.
- Billy Costigan Jr – The Departed (2006)
This marked his third collaboration with Scorsese and – for the pair of them – their most profitable partnership to date. An impressively raw and aggressive performance befitting a cop mentally unravelling whilst undercover as a gangster.
- Danny Archer – Blood Diamond (2006)
Often overlooked, yet well received critically and commercially, Ed Zwick’s diamond smuggling war film not only showed DiCaprio in a more mature light with a commanding performance, but was an engaging action tale too.
- Teddy Daniels – Shutter Island (2010)
Based on a Dennis Lehane novel, this psycho-thriller saw Scorsese direct Leo again and come up trumps. I’ve heard this described as a B-movie with an A-list director and star. Unfair and unjust – it’s genuinely spooky and thrilling.
- Cobb – Inception (2010)
Another bumper year following Shutter Island, helping DiCaprio tick another ‘greatest living director I’ve worked with’ off his list in Christopher Nolan. Quite a restrained, nuanced and tender performance, possibly a career best.
- Calvin Candie – Django Unchained (2012)
Sadistic, charming, brutal with a god complex – the first time Leo has really had the chance to play a villain and he lapped it up. Tarantino at the helm was no doubt a draw, but his performance, whilst unsettling, was truly mesmerising.