Leonardo DiCaprio names the movie role that “stayed with me the most”

Throughout his career, Leonardo DiCaprio has delivered some of the most memorable film roles in contemporary cinema. From his bleach-blonde turn as Romeo Montague in Baz Luhrmann’s 1997 adaptation of William Shakespeare to his effort as the doomed arts in James Cameron’s iconic disaster romance Titanic, DiCaprio has always approached his characters with the utmost earnestness.

It’s often appeared that there’s no role that DiCaprio would not be able to take on, and regardless of period, genre, tone or mood, he’s come up trumps, providing excellent performance after excellent performance, leading to a long-lasting collaborative relationship with the inimitable Martin Scorsese.

Leonardo DiCaprio | Terry Malloy's Pigeon Coop

The Los Angeles-born actor has worked with Scorsese on several occasions, including the films Gangs of New York, The Wolf of Wall Street and Killers of the Flower Moon. In fact, it was a Scorsese movie that served as the film which gave DiCaprio the role that stayed in his heart and mind the most: 2004’s The Aviator.

The biographical epic drama focuses on the aviation pioneer Howard Hughes, who also directed the 1930 war film Hell’s Angels. With DiCaprio in the lead role and with support from Cate Blanchett, Kate Beckinsale, Ian Holm, John C. Reilly and several other stars, Scorsese charts the life of Hughes from the years 1927 to 1947.

During that period, Hughes became a successful movie producer and aviation entrepreneur, but he also experienced a declining mental state as a result of severe obsessive-compulsive disorder. In an interview with Black Film, DiCaprio once explained that he’d been drawn to the character because of the dichotomies between Hughes’ financial success and inner mental anguish.

“He was such an obsessed human being,” the actor said. “He was so obsessive about everything he’d gotten involved with whether it be planes or women or films he made. And that is the direct result of his OCD.” It’s fair to say that DiCaprio did a phenomenal job of portraying the intricacies of Hughes’ mental illness, which is further testament to his overall prowess as an actor.

However, there might have been a consequence to playing a man with such intense OCD in that DiCaprio might have found himself acting in such a way off-set without any intention. He admitted that playing Hughes was the role that stayed with him the most. “How did I shake him?” he said. “I’ve always been pretty good at being able to go home and be me again. But for this character, I’d say more than any other character I’ve played in the past, this one stayed with me the most. Especially with this stuff having to do with obsessive-compulsive disorder.”

DiCaprio admitted to having an obsessive nature as a child, “stepping on cracks on the way to school and having to walk back a block and step on that same crack,” but in order to release himself from obsessive behaviours off screen when making The Aviator he had to go out on his way to purposefully step on the cracks and “let it go”.

Noting the kind of impact of OCD, the actor explained, “People with OCD, with genuine OCD, people that aren’t able to make that distinction, truly live in a 24-hour hell of constantly playing mind games with themselves.” In that light, it’s easy to see why Hughes stayed with DiCaprio for so long and why his performance was so well received.

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