After countless performances in extraordinary films it looks as though it could finally be Leonardo DiCaprio’s year for clinching that Academy Award win. The nominations are in and The Revenant leads in 12 categories with DiCaprio up for Best Actor. The thespian is the talk of the town after his win at the Globes recently and his nom announced today, but why are we always so fascinated by this man and his performances during awards season? Simply put, he’s been robbed time and again. DiCaprio isn’t the only actor to of missed out on his deserved trophy but he’s a recent example of a once-in-a-generation talent who should have won more than one Oscar by now. Forever channeling a raw emotion – and never playing the same man twice – here are the characters the actor won us all over with. Don’t worry Leo, in our hearts and minds you’ve had the Oscar plenty of times.
Shutter Island (2010, Martin Scorsese)
Shutter Island was a change in direction for both director Scorsese and actor DiCaprio. A psychological thriller that had moments of horror, the film was a hit with critics and audiences and stayed imprinted in the mind following the atrocities sen on-screen. As the visually disheveled and slowly crumbling detective Teddy Daniels, DiCaprio was as never before seen in an emotionally-draining and physically exhausting role. There is a genuine mastery that DiCaprio deploys as Teddy, an aging man who is slowly but surely losing grip of the reality around him. Despite his character flaws and his total, mental unraveling, you can’t help but still hope it will all be alright in the end. Of course, in a Scorsese film, it never is.
The Basketball Diaries (1995, Scott Kalvert)
The film itself is a bit of a shitter and it didn’t fare so well among critics. Telling the story of poet and ex-junkie Jim Carroll, Kalvert’s feature has one saving grace: Mr DiCaprio. The actor was undergoing the transition of child star to serious adult talent at the time and doing his indie bit, it’s basically a tradition for all big industry names. As Jim, the actor embodied gritty and unlikable character traits while possessing an adolescent naivety as his life becomes consumed by heroin. It’s a tough film and a truly brave role to of undertaken at such a pivotal point in his career. From prostitution to burglary, Carroll went through it all before finally going to prison and getting clean – and the film doesn’t put a glossy cinematic sheen on any of it. DiCaprio showed then what he still shows now: a complete and impenetrable on-screen power.
The Departed (2006, Martin Scorsese)
By this point DiCaprio and Scorsese were serious filmmaking pals. Having previously teamed up on Gangs of New York it was obvious that the duo were on a journey to cinematic perfection together. They found that perfection some-when in 2006 with the utter genius of The Departed. Violent, intelligent and with a claustrophobic city ‘scape that’s still magnificently fresh on the eyes, the feature was the flick to finally nab Scorsese the Best Director Oscar. Unfortunately the same can’t be said for DiCaprio. Of all of the nods the actor has had, many argue it should of been Billy Costigan that clinched it for him. He’s at his best when his characters are experiencing emotional turmoil (sorry, Leo) and that trait is seen in such an inventive and prevalent way here. One minute Billy is beating up mobsters and seemingly untouchable, the next he’s cracking up in a shrinks office talking about his non-existent shaking hand. Every step of the way Leo toys with his source material, surprising his audience at each moment – you are never really sure if you should be concerned; as Billy he is unreadable, a complete closed-book that you constantly want more of.
Django Unchained (2012, Quentin Tarantino)
Quentin Tarantino’s dive into slavery was pretty much universally beloved. Leonardo DiCaprio as a cotton farm antagonist was universally feared. Now famously remembered for accidentally cutting his hand, continuing to film, and creating the best scene in the entire feature, Calvin Candie was a move to a role he had never previously focused on. As the villain of the piece Leo had fun; he was smarmy, strangely witty and damn-right hated, three characteristics that only DiCpario could encapsulate with such ease. Worryingly, he was also slightly sexy (don’t overthink it).
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993, Lasse Hallstrom)
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape was Leo’s third movie role, and one that saw him play a character who has a developmental disability. There is a thin line between carefully handled and undeniably insensitive with parts like these and DiCaprio never seems to forget that. He works with his source material incredibly tentatively, especially for such a young actor as he portrays Arnie, an innocent adolescent who grabbed the hearts of his audience and wouldn’t let go until 118 minutes later. It’s one of the roles that isn’t widely seen but it deserves recognition; this isn’t the actor that we have all come to know now – you know, the one who stars in thought-provoking and genre busting features. This is a rising star who’s on-screen prowess can truly – and so purely – be seen on-screen for the first time. This is a portrayal of innocence that can’t be tainted.