By TIM DAVID HARVEY
"This is America! This is my home! The show goes on! They're going to have to send the national guard to take me out! Because I 'aint going nowheeeere"! Leonardo DiCaprio stirs everyone's energy, striding, swaggering and shouting enthusiastically down a microphone with slicked back hair and a blue suit only Pat Riley or the rest of the eighties would be proud of. A boisterously hot 'Boiler Room' of slimy, Gordon Gekko slick wannabe 'Wall Street' traders are watching in idolizing admiration. Looking at the man who literally throws dollars away like the waste basket was a Basketball hoop. Like money doesn't sleep on everything from smashing up back to the 80's, Delorean like vehicles and other cars straight off the lot, to sides at meals so expensive you would think they could cure cancer. Throwing wine glasses on the floor when he says hello to his mansion guests before pool parties more populated than Kendrick Lamar. Then launching lobsters and peeled off notes at federal agents as they leave his yacht with all his arrogance all to the soundtrack tune of the Dead Weather and Kanye West. 'More' just simply isn't enough for this guy as he looks like he's having the best and boastful time of his life. Stop! Hold up...wait...Leo?! No this isn't a money hungry change of heart for the soulful philanthropist whose work for the environment is instrumental, but the latest role in his Scorsese actor/director classic combo of cultural creativity. 'The Wolf Of Wall Street'-the true story of Jordan Belfort, the real life Gordon Gekko-could be good enough to make the classic Michael Douglas series look like spare change. Even with it being "trimmed" down to an expensive 3 hour run time the film-which features THE new 'Moneyball' super sidekick, comedy boy wonder Jonah Hill and the redemption of the realest character creator Matthew McConaughey and that divine drawl- has been received with a critical standing ovation of applause as the last horse in the race stampeding it's way to the February Academy of the Oscars. With Martin's new Bobby DeNiro-even holding his arms out and giving that trademark 'Niro nod and questioning facial expression-following the dark mob of 'The Departed', the high-flying 'The Aviator', the epic ensemble of 'Gangs Of New York' and the sublimely sinister 'Shutter Island' this actor/director partnership have made nothing but the best work of their classics. They're even looking at the old blue eyes of Sinatra next. To be Frank they can tell any story they want...doing it their way.
If you thought the best commercial success of 2010's inspired 'Inception' and haunting 'Shutter Island' was the best year of Leonardo DiCaprio's career than you might want to track his last 365 calender days. As great as that was, last Christmas we saw Leo get bloody...literally, putting aside the calling-card conflictions to play the vilest villain with crazy conviction. In Quentin Tarantino's new classic 'Django Unchained', an Oscar winning Christophe Waltz, along with standout performances from lead Jamie Foxx and Samuel L. Jackson gave this modern take on old westerns and Q.T. his best script read since 'Pulp Fiction'. Still it was like candy land for the sweetest cast when Leo played the best worst bad guy of all-time in Calvin Candie. Serving up a tense and taught dinner-table of defining dialogue for the director known for his prose. Like a true professional with incredible improvisation, Leo even played through the pain of actually cutting his hand on glass, rubbing his blood all over Kerry Washington's face unscripted. Staying in character this sick moment was a shock for poor Kerry who would of perhaps preferred a heads up for her face-time, but it still made for a crucial moment in a critical scene and I'm sure the nice guy made it up to her (apparently he was so in character that after having trouble with the racism ended up not conversing much with Foxx before scenes, according to Jaime). With a big beard and bad teeth...and an even bolder and bad suit, the pretty boy with the floppy hair went bad and as ugly as he could for a moment of brutality the film needed to step up the down treading behavior even more. Following his strong supporting role, he reunited with the man that took him to the Hollywood Hills for Baz Lurhman's adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic novel 'The Great Gatsby'. With a whole lot of 3D pomp and circumstance, some critics where dulled by the vibrant colors of a film whose Jay-Z produced soundtrack scored higher. Still, what was undeniable was the morning after party half of the film where Leo turned up the classic conflicted acting to a stripe sharper than his suits. He saved the picture and proved he was the right man to play the legendary Jack Gatsby who people have been trying to picture over the pages for decades. From the moment you heard his voice climb the stairs and extend his drink to the screen with that welcoming smile, you knew this old sport was the man. This is the reason this guy is the leading man lone wolf a top the hills of all the Brad Pitt's and George Clooney pretty boys turned great male actors with his next great and possibly best 'Wolf Of Wall Street' picture about to take legacy lasting frame.
One year off 40 and this Los Angeles born California kid is full grown to his prime that never looks to pass. Just imagine the decades of Clint Eastwood great work we can expect from the amazing ageing of the man who did that all made-up playing 'J. Edgar' with investigatory inspiration. From a child-star to now, we've seen it all grow and mature before our viewing eyes from the 'Growing Pains' sitcom series, 'Santa Barbra' soaps and everyone's favorite 'Roseanne' to the graduated Academy of Oscar nominated roles. Named Leonardo after his mother experienced his first kick while looking at a Da Vinci painting, the kid has been making art ever since. O.K. commercials for Matchbox cars and the 'Critters' films aren't exactly Shakespeare, but 'Romeo + Juliet' certainly is and in the year that was truly his young mans dream this and the maiden voyage of 'Titanic' made him a worldwide star on every households television and on the poster laden wall of every teenage girls bedroom. His love duet with Kate Winslet, still resonates in the sea changes of memories today, regardless of anniversary and his modern guns over swords remake of the greatest love story ever wrote alongside Claire Danes and the scene stealing John Leguizamo is just the coolest thing ever that has inspired many a generation of 'O' or '10 Things I Hate About You' 'bard remake that could never pass the rum like Baz's sunscreen moment. The star sign of Leo has come a long, legendary way since then, but even before then he already had come so, so far. From being handpicked by Robert DeNiro and then beaten on screen by him for the grueling 'This Boys Life', maybe Bobby knew before Martin, he was mentoring his replacement. Able to capture struggle like men decades his senior couldn't he then played the mentally handicapped brother of superstar Johnny Depp for 'Whats Eating Gilbert's Grape', which showed there really was something much deeper to this kids wonderful work. The intense performance was difficult to watch, but even Oscar did as the whole world took deserved notice. What was eating this kid? More light was shined on 'Total Eclipse' and heart on the soulful 'Marvins Room', it was clearly time for this young man to play with the big boys.
In the epic ensemble of the drawn western 'The Quick And The Dead', Leo clicked his spurs with the legendary likes of Gene Hackman, Russell Crowe and Sharon Stone. With six-shooter, cocksure confidence this kid walked taller than his over-sized cowboy hat and boots. For one of the more unforgiven, underrated modern westerns of recent times, DiCaprio displayed true grit, even if Sony pictures was showing his star potential the tombstone. Sharon Stone believed in him though giving him the best break by generously paying for his salary like Sylvester Stallone does for others to keep him in the picture out of the pocket. Although his teenage character tried to wrongly and unsuccessfully seduce the leading lady on-screen, it;s clear he won over the star off it with his acting. His poignant, powerful final scene was the beginning of something great too. After replacing River Phoenix for the homosexual love story of 'Eclipse', Leo went even deeper into the locker room for 'The Basketball Diaries' alongside young greats Mark Wahlberg and Juliette Lewis. More than your average sports journal, this bitter taste and tale of youth wasting their life on drugs and the desperate and pride swallowed lengths they go to score was the darkest, but also light-shedding necessary pictures of modern youth for a mainstream that needed more straight shots and less watered down storie for their collective consciousness. This out of bounds picture was more than just a game for the die-hard Lakers fan. Films like this have helped him become a Jack Nicholson courtside regular, but it's a slam dunk over those ignoring people in poverty. Taking everything to court it remains one of his purest and most powerful plays. A short film with friend Tobey Maguire 'Don's Plum' was greatly received even if the pair never intended it for release it would lead to them collaborating again decades and years later for 'Gatsby', just like the actor/director partnership of Lurhman and Leo that would follow a year later with his 'Romeo'. If everyone didn't love him then or after he painted the perfect portrait of love, while sketching Kate Winslet aboard the 'Titanic', his star stock would rise again with the De Niro reunion and Oscar company of great Meryl Streep for 'Marvins Room', as the stage show was played out perfectly on screen. 'Leo-Mania' was in full massive, mainstream effect, but the humble but appreciative man took it all in stride even mocking himself in a cameo for Woody Allen film 'Celebrity'. He then played twin roles for the steel strong 'The Man In The Iron Mask', revealing more sides of himself, however then he ditched the floppy boyish good look hair for some puppy fat and more well rounded performances as he took his career to an island of it's own.
On the stranger shores of 'The Beach', Leo drew a line in the sand with his first voice of the generation cult, classic. Strange and sublime, this film reaffirmed the bolder choices of his youth that the 'Titanic' mainstream was now ready to sail with him for the rest of his career. His opening monologue of one individuals freedom to travel the boundaries of their life and self discovery could inspire more people than the pages of 'Into The Wild'. A backpackers dream, this took him round the world even more, travel ready for his biggest successes to that destination date. 'Catch Me If You Can' wasn't just the name of a stellar picture that saw Leo shine above THE 90's go-to legends of directing and acting in 'Jurassic Park's' Steven Spielberg and 'Forrest Gump', Tom Hanks himself. It may as well of been Leo's life motto too. Travelling through 147 locations in just 52 shooting days, this was Leo's first of many depictions of real-life men of crime and conflict (like the real 'Wolf Of Wall Street', Jordan Belfort) in this crime caper as DiCaprio played Frank Abagnale Jnr with on-point, perfect conviction. The man who forged checks and unbelievably posed as doctors and pilots was played with genuine belief from Leonardo, earning the star his third Golden Globe. The iconic scene where he walks through a police-filled airport, dressed as a pilot and surrounded by the most beautiful air stewardesses, set to the tune of Frank Sinatra's 'Come Fly With Me' remains one of the most legendary scenes in recent movie-making history. A defining moment for the star and an inspiration for many an airline commercial and even the recent taken off 'Pan Am' series. The international success of playing troubled characters changed the tides of a blockbuster 90's making movie-world. It got darker still alongside Daniel Day-Lewis for the worldwide mob hit of 'Gangs Of New York'. There would be a hell of a of blood in DiCaprio's first partnership with Martin Scorsese, which has led to the star being in every one of Marty's pictures-save 'Hugo'-since then. Things took off for the pair and 'Caprio's real life portrayal even further with 'The Aviator', where Leo channeled the eccentric and deeply troubled airman pioneer and movie-maker Howard Hughes down to the long fingernails. It was a deeply dedicated, no holes-barred, but still really respectful performance that remains the best of not only the Leo/Scorsese partnership, but all the work of either director and actor. From rags to riches and all the way back and forth again, it resonates so much longer than the repeating, fading out anxious words of it's three hour finale.
Leo kept it third time the charm with Martin, as they traveled to Boston with fellow die-hard Laker Jack Nicholson and Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg and 'The Aviators' of Alec Baldwin among an epic ensemble, classic cast for the cops and robbers, detective class in it's own of 'The Departed'. Bold, brutal and brilliant you don't see twists coming like this off both sides of the gun in THE modern day police story that all other action thrillers should take heed too. This came off the heels of DiCaprio travelling to Africa to explore more of the worlds woes and personal tragedies in hard-hitting, grime behind the shine look of 'Blood Diamond'. Complete with a quirky accent and a soundtrack he helped handpick with legendary, top rapper Nas this socially conscious film remains one of the stars most important and influential with an inspired performance that mirrored his philanthropic life work. The kind of filmography resume entry that takes him to the Tom Hanks and Brad Pitt stakes of epic but universally underrated work. With amazing acting, this film proves even his 10th or 20th best picture would be other actors crowning moment of glory. The conscious look and discovery of all that's going on in the world continued with the truth told of the tense and taught 'Body Of Lies' alongside Russell Crowe, where Leo went to the undercover darks to show just how serious an actor he was and still is. Looking at terrorism in the Middle-East it didn't get realer and rawer than this. Then, however a reunion with Winslet saw him take it to the opposite side of love as Leo took it home for Sam Mendes 'Revolutionary Road' and the personal demons and home horror of what goes on behind the white-picket fence of a failing marriage. Yep, this was more depressing than a sinking ship, but it was a suburban look of 1950's America that still his timeless lessons that need to be learnt about love and life today. The dark recesses of the mind where delved even deeper with Scorsese once again for the psychological warfare of 'Shutter Island' from it's misty, atmospheric boat-ride beginnings, to it's nightmare filled, waking dead scenarios played out through the brain stems of a man who lost his whole family, life and mind. This was so harrowing and hauntingly great it could almost personally ground 'The Aviator'. This acclaimed Wall Street look at human behavior under the morality of massive amounts of money against the former pictures look at the mortality of the pressure of loss has a lot to bank on when it comes to this definitive human horror movie. This film even went deeper critically than the dream-induced Christoper Nolan commercial blockbuster success of the influential 'Inception', which made mega household stars of the likes of Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy, taking the lions-share of this entire cast to the conclusion of the epic 'Dark Knight' trilogy (aside Leo who was rumored as the Riddler...how great would have that been?). It was all a dream world for DiCaprio following his biggest mainstream success. Then the worlds best actor of the moment teamed up with arguably the worlds best director Clint Eastwood as the pair went political for the biography of J Edgar Hoover, the director of the FBI who to his credit revolutionized crime-fighting with fingerprint identification, but also to his detriment black-mailed great men like Martin Luther King Jnr and the Kennedy's.
The pair made some public enemies as well with the critics words on their portrayal as would anyone building a controversial character. It seems Leo brings a likability to most of is conflicted characters except this one, but done with all due respect and historical diligence the pair crafted a criminally over-looked classic with Judie Dench and Armie Hammer. The controversial themes where dealt with, with a touch of class and consideration. It remains as enigmatic and interesting as the man himself, presenting both sides of the coins like all true historical biographies should afford to. Let's hope the reception won't stop a reunion between DiCaprio's other great director partner...and let's hope the legendary actor Clint, passed on some camera tricks to a lead who may one day take the chair himself. One things for sure as Leo ages gracefully and greatly over the year he'll have his Eastwood later career defining roles like he did as a million dollar baby. After critics cooled on him a little bit and DiCaprio avoided controversy by stepping away from a Mel Gibson Viking picture because he was against the troubled directors time and tirades, it looked like the hardest working man in Hollywood was taking a break on his acting craft. That was until he left all those notions quick and dead for his return to the wild west and his first real take on the dark side of playing it Denzel in 'Training Day' dirty. His unchained big-three led by 'Django' and the old sport of 'Gatsby' continues with the cash celebration on 'Wall Street' that parties so hard it had to be cut down. 'The Wolf Of Wall Street' looks to take Scorsese and Leo even higher together as a partnership and on their own individual performances of merit, before the pair order another one for the road as they take on the chairman of the board for the ultimate Rat Pack of films. DiCaprio will collaborate with his adversary Django in the crime thriller 'Mean Business On North Ganson' Street' with Jamie Foxx for more perfect partnerships. Who know just quite whats next for the man who in 'The 11th Hour' makes documentaries and works for the improvement of the environment an philanthropy like it was his full-time job. As he seeks to improve the world from activism to his human touch brought to his characters his mission isn't complete. This is one lone wolf with solar panels on his home in the hills. Donating his money and time to global warming, it's clear there's more on this mans mind than the trappings of fame, success and money despite the themes of his latest lesson learning movie. This is truly what separates and sets this actors character free. When it comes to all he's done, it doesn't get more real-life and legacy leading than that. After all, this is his world, this is home, they could send the whole of Hollywood down and they still wouldn't take him out.