Leonardo DiCaprio stars in Once upon a time in Hollywood
Leonardo DiCaprio stars in the new Quentin Tarantino movie that screened for the first time at the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival, to rave reviews. «Once Upon A Time in Hollywood» visits 1969 Los Angeles, where everything is changing, as TV star Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his longtime stunt double Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) make their way around an industry they hardly recognize anymore. During his stay in Cannes, we sat with Leo to talk about courage, the status of Hollywood today and how it was working with Brad Pitt for the first time.
Leo, this was your first film with Brad Pitt. What was it like when two movie titans clash on screen?
We came around in this industry at the same time, in the 90s. Working with Brad was great. We have this intersecting story together in this movie. What was great is that we knew so much about our character’s backstories there were moments of improvisation. Not a lot had to be said. We understood the bond of our characters implicitly. Brad is an amazing actor and so professional. He’s so easy to work with.
Quentin Tarantino is known to be obsessed about details…
He is! Quentin had given us all this material to study. And if you have that kind of tension lifted, great things can happen.
You’ve worked with Quentin before. What is it about him?
The consistency, in this industry, of directors that continue to produce great art are usually the ones that have an acute understanding of its history… He has copies of music that I never heard of. The guy is like a walking archive.
How would you define «Once Upon A Time in Hollywood»?
The film is an homage to all those actors that may have been forgotten. It’s really Tarantino’s love letter to this industry. There are very few filmmakers that think as he does. Scorsese might be another one. Their childhood has been so immersed in this art form that anything you speak about is in the context of movies. It’s in their DNA. It’s hard to describe.
This movie is also about courage. What is courage in your eyes?
Being able to speak out in the face of adversity. Speaking the truth. Even if it means you end up being unpopular.
Is that easy for you?
Not always, but we need it, don’t we? Thank god for the press. Thank god for the dubbed fake news. There could be a patent definition of what news is.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about Hollywood and fame today?
You need to work hard to make it, but you also need to have that one moment of good luck, that opportunity coming your way. I connected with the character and the story right away. Rick’s identity is defined by that opportunity. I have a lot of actor friends still searching for those opportunities.
You found that opportunity…
I was lucky. I was in the right place at the right time. I’ve been able to be my own boss creatively, and I feel so fortunate. But you still ask yourself all the time whether you will ever be let into this elite club…
What do you like about Hollywood in the 60s?
I love the city and the history of film. That time was a transitional period for our country and for the city of Los Angeles. It was all about being cool, and the essence of cool back then.
What is the status of Hollywood today?
We’re in another transition in this business. We’re doing a film that is leaning back onto a forgotten style of movie making… I am looking forward to this new future. The old studio system is becoming a fossil.
What is your biggest fear for Hollywood?
I just hope we are not overwhelmed with content, that we are not over sensitized when something very unique comes around. There are a lot of things that can be made now that wasn’t the case five years ago.
Brad Pitt plays your stunt double, which in itself is kind of funny. Did you ever have a special bond with your stunt guy?
It’s not the same these days. Guys clicked back in the days and relied on each other. Stunt coordinators are not just there to create a fall so we don’t get hurt. They are really there to come up with new ideas and scenarios. There is real pressure to keep evolving. Our characters are more based on when there was a true partnership. We talked about Steve McQueen and others. There was more of a pairing and a partnership of what the scene could be.
It feels like Brad’s character Cliff is a bit more than just the stunt double…
He is more like a swiss army knife. You are right, he is not only the stunt double but also his bodyguard, his shoulder to cry on. His psychiatrist in a lot of ways. He is everything to him. He pays him once and gets twelve other jobs.
Have you ever worked with guys like that on your movies?
Yes. I worked in Africa for eight months. You get that one person to be silent and watch TV with you when you don’t want to be alone.
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give your younger self?
Just enjoy the process more. That’s what I would tell myself. Keep pushing yourself but enjoy the ride.
Conducted by Suzy Maloy / The Interview People