Leonardo DiCaprio - Blood Diamond Feature

Ryan Owen 07/02/2007

Critters 3's Leonardo DiCaprio, Labyrinth's Jennifer Connelly and Gladiator stalwart Djimon Hounsou talk to GIITTV's Ryan Owen about Blood Diamond

Leo seems to be in a jovial mood. And rightly so. It's roughly two hours before the Oscar nominations are announced, with DiCaprio touted to be nominated for his role in Blood Diamond. In view of the nominations, he had good reason to be jovial, with a nomination for Best Actor as well as his co-star Djimon Hounsou getting the nod for his supporting role. The film was also successful in getting nominated in three other categories as well. Let me set the scene for you. A refreshed northerner awakes from his slumber in a plush 250 a night suite (thank you Warner Brothers), upon a king sized bed. A knock at the door, a minute later and one GIITTV film writer has a complimentary breakfast in hand. Fully nourished, film Ryan makes his way to Claridges hotel, where rooms are 600 euros a night and the staff call you Mr Ryan. Furnished with a brown skinny tie and complimentary alcoholic drink in hand, Ryan passes one Jonathan Ross, and enters the hotel reception room where part of Notting Hill was filmed, taking a seat. Enter the stars of Critters 3 and Labyrinth...

Leonardo talks in particular about visiting Africa. “Growing up in the Western World and seeing some of the things we saw, not to mention the immense natural beauty of Africa, and seeing the way that people live there every day was pretty inspiring for all of us, and makes you come back home and question what any of us have to complain about.” It seems to have inspired Leonardo into becoming involved with charities, in particular, working with SOS: Save our Souls, as well as the local orphanage in Mozambique. Following on from this, there seems to be a general consensus among the cast and crew to continue their work with organisations like Amnesty International and Global Witness.

It appears that they honestly want to get the message out there about conflict surrounding diamonds, and it isn't just a publicity stunt, revolving around the film's success. The discussion turns to the strong South African accent the actor affected for the film. “Well... the South African sound was a complete foreign and alien sound to me, and having not spent a lot of time in Africa, it was not only important to go there early to lock down the accent the best I could, but just to get the general attitude that some of these mercenaries; some of these soldiers of fortune; some of these men that have fought wars in Angola; some of the people that have seen some of the atrocities that have gone on; and try and capture their bitterness or mixed emotions towards the continent that they're from”. It's admirable that you never doubt DiCaprio's believability or motives as he is so rooted in his character. Leo delves into how he achieved this characterisation and brought a believability to the role. “Initially going there, there's a hardened shell that surrounds a lot of these guys and I was pretty surprised coming from America, where I incorporated the line that Americans love to talk about your feelings, from my experiences from hanging with some of these South African oaks. Because it was very hard for them to divulge anything about their attitudes on Africa or their mixed emotions about the politics there or of experiences at war, it did take a certain amount of taking them out to various bars and getting them drunk and rehashing past demons. That was some of the most beneficial stuff for me. It helped shaped my character and made me understand some of the emotional turmoil that my character had gone through”. When visualising the encounter between film star and South African oak, you have to ask him, did he go as himself? Showing quick wit, Leo cracks, “In what way? Did I go out in a disguise? (laughter) Did I smuggle them into a bar? (more laughter) No I just kinda walked in”.

There seems to be a certain negative portrayal of Leonardo DiCaprio in the media, as with many celebrities, but from the way he talks, he seems different, exuding the air of a thoroughly nice bloke and one who must be a pleasure to work with. He's very generous and giving when talking about working with his co-stars Jennifer Connelly and Djimon Hounsou in Mkutu: “There's a certain element of camaraderie that exists there when on location and when you're forced to be in each others space constantly. The film takes central focus with everyone, and you don't go back home to your comfortable lifestyle and your daily ritual where you live. Certainly in a place like Africa, - not just the environment but the political landscape - that was surrounding us all the time and the issues were there, we could draw upon stories from other people, and I felt that we were constantly sharing information about the place that we were filming in. I think that it affected all of our characters and it affected our relationships with each other as characters.”

In the press conference with Jennifer Connelly and Djimon Hounsou, journos are pushing for a bit of gossip. Leo quips in retort, Was there any comedic moments? Any fun things happen on set? laughter) I can't remember a damn thing”. At which point Jennifer Connelly enlightens us. “We had baboons in our room, they raided the mini-bar, laughter) literally they did, they ate candy bars, we came back and they were bouncing on the bed, we had little footprints on the couch”. Blood Diamond... a serious film indeed.