DiCaprio still has moments of self-doubt
It helped him connect to his character Rick Dalton in Tarantino's Once Upon A Time In Hollywood
To Leonardo DiCaprio, luck has played a huge part in his success in Hollywood.
Said the 44-year-old Oscar-winning US actor during our interview at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills: "More than anything, it's being in the right place at the right time that opens the doorway to having that career. So, in a weird way, it's like winning the lottery."
In his latest movie Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, which opens here tomorrow, he ironically plays a has-been TV star desperate to hold on to success.
However, DiCaprio had no problem connecting to the character of Rick Dalton, even though his own career trajectory took a different course.
He said: "I have friends who are working in this industry and continue to struggle to try to pave their way. I didn't need to have lived Rick Dalton's life to understand what he was going through. I think there's attributes of self-doubt in him that are universal in all of us."
Yes, even Hollywood superstars like him have mortal moments on set.
"Whether it be exhaustion or whatever, where you cannot get the line out. It's kind of like the equivalent of going to school in your underwear," he said with a laugh.
DiCaprio is arguably the most successful actor of his generation, without a single superhero movie in his filmography.
He has no need to churn out movies to stay in the public eye, and after his breakout role in 1997's Titanic which made his international reputation, his best known work has been with marquee directors such as Martin Scorsese (with whom he has worked five times), Steven Spielberg (Catch Me If You Can), Clint Eastwood (J. Edgar), Christopher Nolan (Inception) and Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained).
Once Upon A Time In Hollywood is his second collaboration with Tarantino, and he shares centre stage with another Hollywood heart-throb, Brad Pitt, who plays Rick's longtime stunt double and best friend Cliff Booth.
While the two broke out at about the same time and worked separately on the TV show Growing Pains, DiCaprio said he knew Pitt only peripherally before this film, but they connected at once.
"I think that we share the same understanding of film and this city and this town and growing up in the '90s, sort of having our careers spark at the same time. There was an immediate understanding and a familiarity with what the genre was about, but more importantly, what that relationship between a stuntman and an actor was like.
"It's a very isolating industry and you depend on these relationships. There was a lot of discussion about our back story. So as soon as we stepped on set the first day, we were those guys. It was a really strange experience," he said.
ADMIRATION FOR PITT
He continued: "Working with Brad was terrific. Not only is he incredibly talented, but he's made some really out-of-the-box choices and he's really tried to do genres of film and work with directors that are interesting and fascinating creatively."
As someone born and bred in Hollywood, when asked what it means to him, DiCaprio said: "Interestingly enough, the only reason I am an actor is because I lived in Hollywood. I had dreams of becoming an actor, but I never felt part of that club.
"If it wasn't for the sheer proximity of going to a school (there), and having my mother literally drop me off to auditions straight after school, I would never have uprooted myself from Iowa or Missouri, with these grand Gold Rush dreams, backpacks on, to come to Hollywood like so many others."
He also has an amusing anecdote about his father during the One Upon A Time In Hollywood shoot.
"My parents are still hippies. When all of Hollywood Boulevard for five blocks was completely re-dressed in 1969 (for the film), they had head shops and hundreds of hippies walking up and down it, we are driving in the car I said to Brad, 'That's my dad there', and he goes, 'Yeah right'.
And I go, 'No, that's really my dad', and he goes, 'Oh, that's cool that they dressed him up to look like one of the extras'.
"I said, 'No, no, he's just visiting, that's him with the sandals and the Hawaiian shirt and that's his wife with the turban on and that's how they are every day'."
The writer is the chair of the board of directors of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a non-profit organisation of entertainment journalists that also organises the annual Golden Globe Awards.