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Leonardo DiCaprio has been known to go to extreme lengths to prepare for roles in movies like The Revenant and others.

But there was one technique DiCaprio used to prepare for all of his films.

Leonardo DiCaprio often isolated himself while doing movies

Leonardo DiCaprio posing at 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood' premiere.
Leonardo DiCaprio | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

DiCaprio has spent a decent amount of time inside the skin of disturbed characters in his acting career. He once considered his role in Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island among some of his most taxing characters. The feature saw DiCaprio as a police officer with dark secrets investigating crimes in a mental institution. And it left a massive impression on the Oscar-winner.

“This is the most challenging one to date for me. Physically yes but emotionally more so,” DiCaprio once said according to the Evening Standard.

By DiCaprio’s own admission, they kept plunging his Shutter Island character deeper into darkness. To truly immerse himself in the role without any distractions, DiCaprio had little human contact. He shared this was a common method he used for most of his movies.

“It is the nature of the character dealing with extreme emotional trauma and it’s hard for those types of things not to rub off on you. But for the most part, I do like to isolate myself away from most people when I’m filming for months at a time and so I wouldn’t necessarily get a reaction from anyone else because I was mostly alone,” he said.

But it was equally important for DiCaprio to let go of his characters after filming.

“By sheer necessity to survive the film-making process I do switch off when I go home because if I don’t, especially in roles as demanding as this… Look, ultimately I’m challenged by these types of characters,” he said.

Why Leonardo DiCaprio doesn’t play more lighthearted characters

DiCaprio’s movies often have an element of tragedy to them. Even roles like Titanic, where he played less tormented characters, conveyed some degree of sadness. But the actor confided that he didn’t specifically look for tragic characters to play. He was just drawn to roles that captivated him.

“I just respond to what I read and what I’ve read in these roles are characters that have moved me emotionally in some respect,” he said. “And this goes back to what moved me in cinema at a very early age, these are the types of characters that I felt emotionally connected to and that’s sort of inexplicable.”

He once recalled in an interview with Variety that one of the films that moved him was Midnight Run. His father took DiCaprio to see the film as a kid. There, DiCaprio was advised to study the film’s star Robert De Niro.

“He said, ‘You want to be an actor; you want to know what a great actor is?’ He took me to the movie and said, ‘This is a great actor,’” DiCaprio remembered.

Past films and actors gave DiCaprio the ambition to be the best actor he could be. This only further pushed him towards emotionally charged roles. Still, DiCaprio didn’t rule out switching to film genres other than drama if given the opportunity.

“I’m driven to be able to some day, in my mind, emulate or try to get close to the great massive works of great performers that I’ve seen in cinema from years past and I don’t know whether that thirst will ever be quenched,” he said. “But I would love to do other genres and I look forward to doing them, it just depends on what moves me emotionally ultimately.”


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