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Filmism.net Dispatch June 25, 2012

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One of the most interesting actors working today has to be Leonardo DiCaprio. Not because he isn't a great actor, he is. His first major role, as mentally handicapped Arnie in What's Eating Gilbert Grape, is still among his best. He hasn't done anything quite that 'actorly' in a long time (though his performance as J Edgar Hoover was definitely craftsmanlike), but he's been solid enough to headline several very high profile films.

He must be either a very pleasant guy to work with, a lot of famed directors think he's a good actor like the rest of us or he's attracted that sheen that makes director think he's a natural leading man. He not only keeps getting roles, he gets the cream of them. He's played lead characters in very high quality films for directors as lauded as Christopher Nolan (Inception) and Clint Eastwood (J Edgar). He's even supplanted Robert De Niro as Martin Scorsese's new muse in four films so far, Gangs of New York, The Aviator, Shutter Island and The Departed.

And there's no stopping him yet. This Christmas he's going to play pivotal roles in two of the biggest films of the year, The Great Gatsby and Django Unchained. A quick look at the trailers will show you his range and talent. He's associated with about 20 films as a producer or star. He's even going to play Ian Fleming in 2014.

But every time I watch DiCaprio on screen, I can't help feeling something you just don't say out loud most of the time. It was most pronounced in Ridley Scott's Body of Lies and Scorsese's Shutter Island, and it's hard to shake.

He never looks old enough to play a grown up. Even with a scraggly beard, a noir-inspired detective suit from the 40s or a natty white coated dinner suit in the flapper era, no matter how good he acts, he just looks like a scowling teenager trying to look tough and playing dress-ups. Is it just me?

This week I saw Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, which was better than the title suggests, and I saw the least-seen Malick film, Days Of Heaven, to complete my education about the reclusive auteur.

I also had the pleasure of talking to director-of-the-moment Benh Zeitlin, the man behind Sundance hit Beasts of the Southern Wild.

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