Sixteen years after the colossal success of Titanic launched Leonard DiCaprio's career, he is taking on another legendary American story in F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatbsy. Before the potential blockbuster hits theaters, let's take a trip back to 1997, when DiCaprio was a mere 22-year-old being interviewed about Titanic.
Leonardo DiCaprio had been acting since he was a teenager and had even secured his first Golden Globe and Oscar nominations (for the 1993 drama What's Eating Gilbert Grape), but it wasn't until his role as "Jack Dawson" in Titanic that he became a household name.
In his interview, DiCaprio highlights that even though the film went on to be a major success for him, it deviated from his career to that point and seemed risky.
"I traditionally have done smaller films and this, to me, was a completely new venture," he says in the flashback. "I took a chance and tried something different. It definitely worked out, in my opinion, but I've never done anything of this caliber. ... My opinion of huge movies like this...has always been to stay away from them...but I didn't want to discriminate against this because it was such a powerful story and such an important movie."
The chance paid off, monetarily and career-wise, for the young actor. Titanic became the highest grossing film of all-time (later surpassed by Avatar) at $2.2 billion in ticket sales, a whopping inflation-adjusted $3.2 billion.
On a personal level, DiCaprio not only became a heartthrob for his role as the fictitious heroic lover he portrayed in Titanic, but also became in high demand for leading roles.
After a few of his performances immediately following Titanic yielded mild reviews, DiCaprio was very selective of the projects that he undertook, a quality that he has upheld for the duration of his career.
Five years after Titanic, DiCaprio had two blockbusters premiere within a week of each other, Catch Me If You Can and Gangs of New York. Rich performances in those films cemented DiCaprio as a Hollywood star.
"I understand that if you want to have a career with longevity, things go up and down," he says. "... [I'm interested in] whatever will carry me to the next level as an actor so I can continue to do good movies. The choices I've made have simply been because they've been the best possible films in front of me. That's why I've done them. I haven't purposely chosen to become widely known."
DiCaprio won his first Golden Globe on his next film after Gangs of New York, The Aviator, and was nominated for a Golden Globe or an Oscar on five of his next eight films, including his most recent film, Django Unchained.