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Like A Wolf: Leonardo DiCaprio Turned Down 'Hocus Pocus' To Star In 'What's Eating Gilbert Grape?'

Photo of Kevin Jagernauth By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist February 13, 2014 at 3:30PM

While "Titanic" is generally understood as the movie that launched Leonardo DiCaprio into the stratosphere, he had to make a few career moves to get there first. "This Boy's Life," "The Basketball Diaries" and "Romeo + Juliet" paved the way, but how would have things gone if he had done "Hocus Pocus"?
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Leonardo DiCaprio Hocus Pocus

While "Titanic" is generally understood as the movie that launched Leonardo DiCaprio into the stratosphere, he had to make a few career moves to get there first. "This Boy's Life," "The Basketball Diaries" and "Romeo + Juliet" paved the way, but how would things have gone if he had done "Hocus Pocus"?

It's a question for the ages, and the actor reveals that following "This Boy's Life," he was offered “more money than I ever dreamed of” to join Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker in the Disney family movie about witches. But he turned down the mouse house to make "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" instead. “I don’t know where the hell I got the nerve,” he told Variety. “You live in an environment where you’re influenced by people telling you to make a lot of money and strike while the iron’s hot. But if there’s one thing I’m very proud of, it’s being a young man who was sticking to my guns.”

And so what did he do to make sure he got the role in Lasse Hallstrom's film? Research, starting with a tape of child afflicted with the same disability. “I watched it for three days straight, all day long,” he says, adding that once he got the gig he continued his studies to nail the role. “There were a hundred things I noticed and picked up on, and came to Lasse with a checklist of attributes for the character. He just said, ‘Okay, kid, go for it.’ ”

And result of the all that hard work? His first Oscar nomination, in the Best Supporting Actor category. So the lesson here? Sometimes it pays to go after quality rather than pad your bank account. And also, talk about a bullet dodged...

This article is related to: Leonardo DiCaprio


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