Revolutionary Road - Leonardo DiCaprio interview
Interview by Rob Carnevale
LEONARDO DiCaprio reunites with Kate Winslet for the first time since Titanic in domestic drama Revolutionary Road. But while there’s little in the way of romance between them this time around, the actor reveals why he had fun “giving it to” his friend and co-star, and also recalls the last time he really had fun on a film set.
He also talks about why he feels so lucky to be in control of his own career and why he doesn’t have a holy grail in life, unlike his character in his latest film.
Q. Had there been many efforts to bring you and Kate back together since Titanic?
Leonardo DiCaprio: There were a couple of projects throughout the years and I think we both got offered different films that we’d ring each other up and say: “What do you think of this?” We fundamentally knew that if we were going to do something together again we didn’t want to tread on any kind of similar territory to Titanic. It’s not that we don’t love that movie, we just knew it would be a mistake to try to repeat any of those themes. So, when she brought this to me – which was a book Kate had been shepherding for many, many years – I was the third element after her husband.
The first three scenes find these characters at each other’s throats and my hand goes through the roof of my car from exasperation from an argument, so obviously there were some problems in this relationship – and that to me said that this could be interesting because it’s unlike anything we’ve done in the past. It’s the disintegration of a relationship and people desperately trying to hold onto a love that they once had, as opposed to star-crossed lovers that are falling in love against all odds. It leant itself immediately to something we could do together.
Q. As the relationship gets worse between the two of you, how draining were the scenes to film?
Leonardo DiCaprio: To tell you the truth, those were the scenes I looked most forward to. When I read the script, knowing Kate for such a long period of time, I knew we could take advantage of our friendship and relationship on a personal level for those scenes. The first thing I said when I called her about doing the movie was: “I can’t wait to do these fight scenes, because I’m really going to give it to you…” And she replied that she couldn’t wait herself. I found that while doing the movie that so much that happens between Frank and April is what’s left unsaid… throughout the film we’re in this small house in the middle of the suburbs and both of these characters are trying their best to like each other, but there’s something growing beneath the surface. I actually found it a real joy to do those later sequences because finally these people were letting each other have it; they were finally telling the truth and their real emotions were coming out. So, I relished those sequences. They were some of my favourite scenes to do.
Q. Did it make you feel empty, portraying such a melancholy relationship?
Leonardo DiCaprio: Empty… no. Drained, certainly. Frank is an interesting character. On some levels, I sympathise with him and understand his inability to want to change his life. He’s disatisfied with his life in some respects, but on that same token he is his father’s son. He was, at the end of the day, bred for that existence. It’s what feels comfortable to him. He didn’t want to take that leap of faith, ultimately. He wanted to go to a job that he was dissatisfied with, provide for his family and his life… and I sympathise with that. He didn’t quite have the courage to take that leap. He does some pretty reprehensible things in the movie but, much like April, I forgive both of them. They’re human beings.
Q. Has acting turned out to be all you wanted it to be? Or does it sometimes reflect a sort of similar dissatisfaction with your career?
Leonardo DiCaprio: No, it doesn’t [laughs]. I always wanted to be an actor and I’d never dreamt that not only would I be able to do this for a living, but also on top of that I’d be able to choose and steer the course of my own career. If you look at the percentages… that’s a pretty damn rare thing to be able to do in this industry. So, I feel extremely lucky. I have a lot of friends who are actors and I look at it as an unbelievable gift. It has turned out to be way more than I could ever have imagined and it’s something that I’ll hopefully continue to do for a long time, and something that I will never disrespect or take for granted.
Q. Did the themes of fatherhood and abortion change you as a person in terms of the way you looked at those issues?
Leonardo DiCaprio: I wouldn’t say it changed me as a person. I think the experience does that, much like any movie you do. The Wheelers fundamentally to me are two people that are meant to be apart. I think they do have this one opportunity to fulfil their dreams and live the life they wanted to, but they end up not seizing that opportunity. So, to me they’re destined not to be together. I think they’re dysfunctional and they’re not my idyllic view of marriage – that’s for sure! They’re a specific case. But we all identify with their need to want to live the life they dreamed to live.
Q. Paris becomes this type of holy grail to Frank and April. Have you got a Paris in your life?
Leonardo DiCaprio: I don’t have something like that. I think it would be a facade if I did. What’s the John Lennon quote? “Life is what happens while you’re making other plans…” There’s always going to be that ultimate goal that you reach for, and whether you fall short of that or not you have to enjoy life in the process. It may sound corny, but it’s true. At the end of the day, we can’t always achieve everything that we dream of but you do have to enjoy life in the process. To me, what Paris represents to the Wheelers as well is a desert illusion as well. I think they would have had the same problems in Paris as they would in the middle of the suburbs.
Q. What’s the most fun you’ve ever had making a movie?
Leonardo DiCaprio: Fun?! A lot of the movies I’ve done recently haven’t been synonymous with that word, certainly while shooting them. That isn’t to say I don’t love what I do, but they’ve been hard work recently. The first one that comes to my mind, honestly, was a film called Celebrity many years ago with Woody Allen. That was a lot of fun. Woody was the type of director who literally said: “Stand over there… but you don’t have to!” That was the extent of the direction [laughs]. But that was a very fun film because there was absolutely no pressure involved. But with the roles I’ve taken on recently, a lot of work has been put into them. So, they’ve been rewarding as opposed to fun.
Q. On the set of Revolutionary Road, did Kate and Sam [Mendes, director] ever gang up against you?
Leonardo DiCaprio: To tell you the truth, Sam really was on the back-burner while making this movie. As far as the dynamic of the three of us was concerned, he let us have our own relationship on set. He realised that we needed to be Frank and April Wheeler when we were on set, and his wife was his wife when she went home. He kind of kept separate from us and did that very purposefully. Often, between takes Kate and I would talk about roles and what we should do, and Sam would be there when he needed to be there. People always want to create some sort of weirdness in that dynamic. But to me, while there were weird moments of course, it was beyond comfortable. It was like a family atmosphere… it was like a little theatre group of people. I was like at their little bed and breakfast making a movie.
Q. How would you say your screen relationship with Kate has progressed in the 13 years since you last starred together? Has it reached a new level of maturity?
Leonardo DiCaprio: Kate has always had an intense work ethic and a real intense desire… ever since I first met her when we were late teenagers/early 20s, she always wanted to do great work. That’s been a part of her DNA ever since she’s been in this industry. She was extremely professional even back then. So, her work ethic, or her desire to do good movies, has not changed. But what’s changed about her on a professional level now is that by the mere nature of having done so many movies, she no longer looks up to producers or directors as parental figures or sources of guidance. She now walks on set and feels equal with everybody else. Now, we both sort of realise that we are legitimately adults working in this industry.
- Buy it on DVD (Amazon)
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read our review
- Leonardo DiCaprio interview
- Kate Winslet interview
- Revolutionary Road - UK Premiere Gallery
- Read our preview