“We got hipsters in the house!” This phrase makes even less sense now than when I heard Leonardo DiCaprio say it last night at the Ziegfeld Theater in New York City, where hundreds braved the horrendous weather to hear him talk about his decade-long partnership with director Martin Scorsese. The panel, which included longtime Scorsese editor Thelma Schoonmaker along with screenwriter Terence Winter, was part of a two-day series highlighting all five films Scorsese and DiCaprio have collaborated on. As for the hipster comment, Leo had just asked those in the audience whether they had already seen "The Wolf of Wall Street," one of the most divisive films of 2013. When more than half the crowd raised their hands, he seemed genuinely happy, like the work he had put in over the last several years paid off. Thus, his decision to call those with their hands up "hipsters.” Nevertheless, DiCaprio’s definition of the word shouldn’t matter as much as the sentiment behind it—a feeling of excitement and satisfaction.
The overall response 'Wolf' has gotten since it hit theaters last December has been, to say the least, complicated. Some love it for its brutal and honest portrayal of a greedy Wall Street broker who stole millions of dollars from innocent people. Others think it’s a disgusting and blasphemous film that’s unwilling and uninterested in punishing its immoral lead character. The hostility from the latter camp has sent the usually private DiCaprio on a months-long press tour to support the movie and Scorsese’s vision (not to mention an Oscar campaign, with the film receiving five nominations).
“I have been doing a lot of press for the film and speaking openly about it because I want more films like this to be able to get made,” DiCaprio said. “You may misinterpret it. But this is what we wanted to put up on the screen, and that’s not something you’re going to see very often nowadays, which is what I am absolutely most proud of of making this movie.”
In fact, DiCaprio has a lot to be proud of—and not just for the acclaim his latest work has already received. "The Wolf of Wall Street" marks the fifth collaboration between him and Scorsese, a partnership that began in 2002 on the period piece "Gangs of New York." Since then, it has blossomed into one of Hollywood’s greatest actor-director relationships. Most surprising is DiCaprio’s reaction to it all: he can’t quite believe he’s gotten to work as much as he has with one of his cinematic heroes.
“It’s interesting, because I have been doing this since I was 13,” said DiCaprio, about his acting career. “I am almost about to turn 40, and I am looking back at some of the stuff I’ve gotten to do, and at the center of it is this amazing accidental collaboration that I’ve gotten to have with Marty.”
This self-described accidental collaboration has produced five distinct films so far, each with its own singular lead performance from DiCaprio: In "Gangs of New York," he played an immigrant in a city on the cusp of self-destruction; in "The Aviator," he was the influential and inimitable Howard Hughes; in "Shutter Island," he was a detective looking to solve a mysterious disappearance at a psychiatric facility; in "The Departed," he portrayed an undercover cop attempting to take down an infamous mob boss; and now, in "Wolf of Wall Street," he plays a scumbag trying to scam money off of unsuspecting civilians. This is an impressive body of work. The fact that it was done with Martin Scorsese, one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, makes it that much more remarkable.