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Interview: Leonardo DiCaprio & Joseph Gordon-Levitt

The stars of Inception on working with Christopher Nolan, stunts and dream worlds


Though Leonardo DiCaprio tends to be the more action-oriented tough guy in movies as opposed to emotionally intense thesp Joseph Gordon-Levitt, they seemed to be switching sides during this meet for Christopher Nolan’s Inception. And while JGL related the thrill of getting banged up doing his own stunts, Leo kept it in the clouds, discussing Freudian analysis of fantasy worlds and flight-of-fancy scenarios penetrating subconscious celeb minds, that at times made it hard to distinguish between the script and a therapy session. Though the biggest challenge of all for Leo, may have been a momentary imaginary incarceration inside a Moroccan vending machine.

Q: Leo, what was the best and worst part of this strange role?

Leonardo DiCaprio: Well look, this was an extremely ambitious concept that Chris was trying to pull off, and he accomplished it with flying colors. There’s not too many directors who would pitch to Hollywood, you know, an existential high-action surreal film that’s locked in somebody’s mind and get the opportunity to do that. So for me, it was a matter of sitting down with Chris and being really able to form the backbone of a character having a real cathartic journey, and to create a scenario that seemed like a giant therapy session! And at the end of the day, these different layers of the dream, like psychoanalysis, and having him getting deeper and closer to the truth about himself. So that in its own right is immediately intriguing, and some of the sequences at the end, [they] start to get very disturbing at times. So as we would talk about my character, it all became more and more exciting. And the toughest sequences…I think that when I had to run through that crowd in Morocco I felt like a pinball, because I was bouncing from Moroccan to Moroccan. And falling into various vending machines! So that was a little bit tough.


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Q: With Inception, you’re playing yet one more mysterious character with a hidden identity. Is that what you look for, or what’s pitched to you?

LD: I guess a lot of my films have been…more serious in tone. But look, I’m a very fortunate person. I get to choose the movies I want to do. I grew up in LA, and I have a lot of friends in this industry who don’t get to do that. So I realize every day how lucky I am. So while I’m here, I’m going to do exactly what I want.

Q: Well, do you see this as the dark phase of your career, and maybe Inception and Shutter Island as bookends?

LD: Bookends? I don’t know. These [were] just characters that I was compelled to do and I’m lucky to be able to do, and I’ve just tried to work with the best directors that I can. These psychologically dark films, 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 to say a line and know that your character means exactly what they say, you know? It’s interesting to have an unreliable narrator. That’s what both of these films have been—both are unreliable, to themselves and the characters around them. So that sheer notion was extremely exciting to me. You know, this is my first science fiction film, and I have a hard time with science fiction.

Q: How come?

LD: I have a little bit of an aversion to it, because it’s hard to emotionally invest in worlds that are too far detached from what we know. But that’s what is interesting about Chris Nolan’s science fiction world, because it’s deeply rooted in things we’ve seen before. There are cultural references, and it feels like a tactile world that we understand and that we could jump into. There’s not too much of a leap of faith to make. But emotionally, as far as the character’s journey, I took everything as if it was. You know, you have to, otherwise you’re not invested in the character and not invested in the character’s journey. You’re not going to make it believable to an audience. Everything is real, in essence.

Q: Joe, what excited you most about this movie?

JL: It was nice to feel like you’re not just reenacting a preconceived moment, but that there’s room for spontaneity, and an organic feeling to develop while the camera is rolling. Even amidst these enormous technical productions, Chris always prioritized making sure that the spontaneous and organic feeling could happen at the moment.

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