In “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood,” Leonardo DiCaprio plays a struggling actor who can only dream of being nominated for an Academy Award. He has to fight for good parts, is never recognized for industry accolades and is forced to travel overseas to get work.
That, of course, is far from DiCaprio’s reality. On Monday, the 45-year-old scored his sixth acting Oscar nomination for his leading turn in Quentin Tarantino’s film. The actor, who took home the coveted trophy in 2016 for “The Revenant,” said he woke up at his home in Los Angeles a couple of hours after the nominations were announced.
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How do you think Rick Dalton would react to being nominated for an Oscar?
I think Rick Dalton would be ecstatic. This film, in a lot of ways, was Quentin’s love letter to Los Angeles and this entire industry — so many of the actors before me that built the foundation of this entire town. Rick was becoming obsolete, and embodied that major cultural transition in the industry. It was a great joy to do the research of that time period with Quentin.
When you won an Oscar in 2016, you seemed very moved during your acceptance speech. Does Oscar recognition really mean a lot to you?
Absolutely. I think everyone feels that way. We inhabit these roles, we go off on location to do these performances, and you never know how the audience or critics are going to feel about what you do.
You and costar Brad Pitt seem to have grown especially close on the awards trail. How has your friendship evolved since filming?
Both of us connected with the relationship that the two characters have in the film — the support system they have for one another. Having grown up in this industry around the same time and places, we just clicked into these people. It was a really natural, implicit understanding. It was amazing working with Brad.
At the Golden Globes this month, he cracked that he thought Jack should’ve shared the life raft with Rose at the end of “Titanic.” Were you surprised by the depth of his “Titanic” knowledge?
He always comes prepared with some good quip on stage — especially the last-minute ones.
There was a lot of talk at the Globes about the fires in Australia. Should you get a chance on the Oscar stage, would you take the opportunity to talk about issues that are important to you?
Absolutely. If it’s something that you’re passionate about — whether that be the environment or not — there’s not many opportunities for us as artists to have a voice that reaches to millions and millions of people around the world. We’re going through an unprecedented shift in the environmental moment — seeing disasters happening faster and at a scary level. The Australian bush fires are — as Russell Crowe put it — related to climate change and temperatures rising and droughts. We need to bring a voice to these issues, and we have a platform that is unprecedented and unmatched.
You’ve produced a handful of environmental documentaries over the past few years, but none has gotten as much attention as a film like “Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood.” Does that bother you?
Well, the truth is, as much as you would love to see people bring as much attention to something I did like “Sea of Shadows” — about the possible extinction of the vaquita — or the climate change film “Before the Flood,” at the end of the day we are in the renaissance of documentaries. There’s more funding for these films and these ideas, and the truth is that they’re getting millions and millions more eyeballs than before because of these streaming services.
At the Globes, Ricky Gervais poked fun at the fact that you’ve dated many women who are younger than you. Does that make you happy there is no host for this year’s Oscars?
No, it’s all good fun. It’s the Oscars, at the end of the day. Is this a common thing? Do you think this will become common — the no-host thing? I do like a host. But after watching it with no host last year, you know, it wasn’t that bad, either. Both ways were kinda cool with me. But you’ve gotta have somebody who’s excited to do it, which Ricky was.