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Feature: Leonardo DiCaprio

Flying High

Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can Leonardo DiCaprio recalls his experiences on Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York and Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can

When both Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg asked Leonardo DiCaprio if he would work with them, the answer to both the legendary film-makers was an emphatic and immediate yes. As fate had it, Scorsese’s Gangs of New York took forever to come together, with 10 months of filming and a long, long editing process. Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can fell into place right away, started and wrapped in weeks, and was readied for release seemingly in an instant.

Scorsese, DiCaprio acknowledges, was the draw, particularly at first. “I’d always wanted to work with him,” DiCaprio says. “I found this great film-maker whose films I’d seen a couple of but never really invested my time into. I wanted to be a part of a film that people were going to be watching for years to come. That was my initial goal. Basically, Gangs of New York was the project that I heard about that he had been developing for 25 years. I actually switched agencies to get a meeting with him about the project. That never happened, until I was 25, I think it was [top Hollywood agent] Michael Ovitz that called him and asked him what movie he wanted to do, and he said, ‘I always wanted to make Gangs of New York’. He said, ‘I have this young actor that I’m representing right now. Do you want to do it with him?’ [Ovitz] mentioned me, he said yes, and it was one of the greatest moments I’ve had in my career.

“It’s a very small story about the biggest urban riot in American history, one that really transformed New York into the metropolitan city that it is today. It’s [also] a small story that presented something so much larger about our country, the transformation of our country, the beginnings of democracy, the plight of the immigrant. It was like nothing I’d ever seen before. I committed right away and said, ‘However long this takes, I’m there.’ I think it was about a year and a half until the movie actually started. It was great”

A different kind of fire burns within Frank Abagnale, the character DiCaprio portrays in Catch Me If You Can, a fact-based comedy drama set in 1960s America. Following his parents’ divorce, young Abagnale gets downright larcenous, forging millions of dollars in cheques, posing as an airline pilot, as a doctor and even as a lawyer. Hot on his trail is FBI Agent Hanratty (Tom Hanks), a loner in his own right who swears that Abagnale will be caught and punished. “He was one of the greatest actors around, except that his stage was the real world,” DiCaprio explains, describing Abagnale. “He was like a chameleon and was able to adapt to different environments seamlessly. So he was a true thespian. I’d actually read the book before I read the script. Then I got the Jeff Nathanson script. It really captured this time and condensed a lot of things from the book and caught the essence of Frank Abagnale.”

by Ian Spelling

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Feature © Visual Imagination 2003. Not for reproduction

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Film Review (Feb), see below for ordering options
Film Review (Feb)
#627, February 2003
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