|Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio poses during a press conference promoting his film "Django Unchained" in Seoul on Thursday. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)|
Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio poses during a press conference promoting his film "Django Unchained" in Seoul on Thursday. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)
Top Hollywood actor Leonardo DiCaprio said he was “proud” to play a character who “represents everything wrong” about the American antebellum era.
The 38-year-old arrived in Seoul on Wednesday to promote his latest film, Academy Award-winning “Django Unchained.”
In the western film directed by the legendary Quentin Tarantino, set in the antebellum era of the Deep South of the U.S., DiCaprio stars as Calvin Candie, a cruel plantation owner who is chased after by a freed slave Django (Jamie Foxx), who wants to rescue his wife from him.
“This film deals with the Civil War in our country and racism that went on during that time period,” the actor said during a press conference in Seoul on Thursday.
“And my character in this film is really the epitome of moral decay in the South in that time period. And the idea of slavery is the antithesis of what our country is based on -- that all men are created equal. So I’m proud to be a part of it and play the character that represents everything wrong about the time period.”
Playing the villain who enjoys “pitting his slaves against each other in fights to the death,” was challenging, DiCaprio said, especially because it required him to be nasty toward actors Jamie Foxx and Samuel Jackson, whom he admires and respects.
“But it was really Sam Jackson and Jamie Foxx who really made me understand that the further I go with the character, the more I would be telling the truth about the atrocities of the time period, and how the African-Americans were mistreated in our country,” he said.
The film was nominated for five Academy Awards this year, including Best Picture, and won Best Supporting Actor and Best Original Screenplay. It has grossed over $393 million in theaters worldwide, since its U.S. release on Dec. 25 -- becoming the highest-grossing picture made by Tarantino to date.
The 38-year-old star enjoyed much popularity in Korea back in the ’90s, for his roles as Romeo in Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film “Romeo + Juliet” and as Jack in James Cameron’s 1997 international hit “Titanic.”
“You know, I’ve been very, very lucky in this industry to be able to have the opportunity, almost like winning the lottery, to choose the films I want to be in,” the actor said.
“And that’s really thanks to one film and that’s ‘Titanic.’ It really allowed me to do things in my career that I am proud of.”
Throughout the 2000s, the actor starred in a number of films that got him nominations for awards, including “Gangs of New York” (2002), “The Aviator” (2004), “Blood Diamond” (2006) and “Revolutionary Road” (2008). His 2010 sci-fi thriller “Inception” is among the biggest commercial hits of his acting career.
“My philosophy has been always the same,” the actor said.
“Pain is temporary, film is forever. You go in there do everything you possibly can with all of your focus and hopefully you come out with -- if all the elements come together correctly -- a great piece of art. And to me, cinema is the great modern art form. When I go see a movie, I am completely immersed in that and those characters and the world the directors create. So it’s been really about trying to work with the best possible I can and with the best directors I can.”
DiCaprio is also ahead of the Korean opening of “Great Gatsby,” the film adaptation of Fitzgerald’s iconic 1925 novel in which he plays the protagonist.
“What I realized quite recently about the films I’ve done recently is that they all have one prevalent theme and that is the great quest for wealth in my country, and the idea of money being the centerpiece of all that,” the actor said.
“You know, Gatsby is the man who sort of recreates himself to be a part of the wave of American aristocracy for the love of one woman. He re-imagines himself and becomes that. As well as in this film ‘Django Unchained,’ my character is almost like the pompous Louis XIV going onto this great plantation and in the process has to differentiate himself from other people and live off their sweats and tears.”
The actor said he’s been eating Korean barbecue and kimchi “all his life,” while growing up in a predominantly Korean neighborhood in Los Angeles. He is also a big fan of Park Chan-wook’s 2003 film “Oldboy.”
“It was actually (Martin) Scorsese who brought the film to me saying Park is a true genius,” he said.
“Django Unchained” is opening in theaters in Korea on March 21.
By Claire Lee