In Christopher Nolan’s new science fiction thriller Inception, Leonardo DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, part of an elite team that can enter a person’s mind, stealing valuable secrets.
In our continuing interview with the actor he explains why he is attracted to such dark characters, including J Edgar Hoover, whom he will portray in an upcoming movie.
Cobb is another chameleon-like character with lots of secrets. Are those the roles you’re attracted to or is that what’s pitched to you?
I don¹t really question [that] when I read a script. If I feel I can be of service to that role, if I feel like it emotionally engages me, it’s something that interests me and obviously if the director is somebody that has the capacity to pull off the ambitious nature of whatever they’re trying to do in the screenplay, I never question that.
So I guess a lot of my films have been more serious in tone, but that’s something that I don’t try to deny. Look, I’m a very fortunate person. I get to choose the movies that I want to do. I have a lot of friends in this industry that don’t get to do that. I grew up in LA A lot of my friends are actors so I realize every day how lucky I am to have this opportunity, so while I’m here, I¹m going to try to do exactly what I want.
Do you see this as a dark phase in your career, and are this and Shutter Island bookends?
Bookends? I don’t know. I think that these were characters and film makers and plot structures that I was compelled to do and I’m lucky to be able to do, so I jumped on those opportunities.
I traditionally have always tried to work with the best directors I can. These types of films that are psychologically dark at times, I find extremely exciting to do because there’s always something to think about. There’s nothing more boring than to show up on set and say a line and know that your character means exactly what they say. It’s interesting to have an unreliable narrator in a film and that’s what both of those films have been. Both these characters are unreliable to themselves and the characters around them. So that sheer notion was extremely exciting to me.
You previously referred to your work in this film and in Shutter Island to a sort of therapy session. When you’re playing a character operating in an imaginary world, how does that change your performance? And when you do two films like that back-to-back, does one influence the other?
It was something I certainly was aware of, but going on some kind of cathartic journey throughout the course of the film is about where the similarities ended. This film couldn’t have been more vastly different than the other in its execution, so I felt safe and completely aware of trying my best not to repeat any of those themes.
But to answer your question about how one acts in that world, or that there¹s something you need to be aware of or do different, I would say absolutely not. This was my first Science Fiction film. The earliest conversations I had with Chris is how both of us have a hard time with science fiction. We have a little bit of an aversion to it because it’s hard for us to emotionally invest in worlds that are too far detached from what we know.
That’s what’s interesting about Chris Nolan’s Science Fiction worlds. They’re visually deeply rooted in things that we’ve seen before. There are cultural references and it feels like a wor