The last time James Cameron made the most successful film of all time, he didn’t emerge as the project’s most famous face.
That fame fell on Leonardo DiCaprio, who was always uneasy about his superstar status.
In the decade since Titanic, DiCaprio has gone out of his way to embrace projects that force audiences to think of him as an actor rather than a celebrity. His primary partner in crime during this period has been legendary director Martin Scorsese.
The pair have made four films together, the most recent of which is Shutter Island (opening next week). DiCaprio loves working with the director because of his deep appreciation for actors.
“The one thing that I don’t think people understand about Scorsese is how much he believes in his actors,” DiCaprio told Metro. “He’s a master filmmaker, but he always lets the actors dictate what he puts up on the screen.”
Following their Oscar-winning collaboration, The Departed, Scorsese and Dicaprio decided to turn their attention to a thriller by Mystic River author Dennis Lehane.
On paper, Shutter Island seems like little more than a genre movie about a detective investigating a twisted mental institution. However, there are more than just thrills in the film — even if Scorsese and DiCaprio weren’t completely conscious of it when they signed on.
“Once we started to unravel who this man was and the nature of what was going on, it took us to places that we never could have foreseen,” the actor said.
As DiCaprio worked on the film, the complexities of the project and his character began to peel away like an onion.
“When you read something a character can seem one way, but until you’re actually on set doing it, there’s really no way to fully understand him,” admitted DiCaprio.
Careful not to give away the film’s surprises, he continued, “We suddenly realized that we had to push certain boundaries that we didn’t think we needed to initially. Everything changed and there were a few weeks that I have to say were some of the most hardcore filming experiences I’ve ever had. It was almost like reliving trauma.
“I don’t say that sort of stuff very often because it always seems superficial when you’re talking about a movie, but we really went to places unearthing who this man was that I didn’t think we would get to.”
Shutter Island should be a pleasant surprise for audiences, offering all of the suspense and entertainment expected from a thriller but with a psychological depth that isn’t quite as common.