Rebecca Murry Interviews Dicaprio

12th July 2010

Interview The Appeal of Blood Diamond: “First off on the script, it was such a powerful character. It was such a powerful storyline and that’s what you look for first. I wasn’t personally going out seeking films with a social and political message, just to do it for the sake of doing it.It has to have an entertainment value. It has to be a good movie and it has to convey a message without the audience feeling they are being preached to, and I really felt this script accomplished that.


To me, it was very representative of a huge issue in the world today of corporate responsibility and what these corporations do, and certainly Africa has been a prime target for it - all the way to gold and rubber and all kinds of other natural resources. And here was this character that was exploiting others that were less fortunate than him, dealing in the black market and not really being conscious of the world he lives in. I just felt it was a really powerful character.


…It was really Ed Zwick and Marshall [Herskovitz] who learned about the diamond trade specifically and brought the political aspects into this story, but in a way that I didn’t feel was preachy. In a way that I felt was authentic. So, of course, it’s always great to do a movie that you find is entertaining, but also can give some sort of political or social message and I felt this movie did that.”


Working on the Accent: DiCaprio captured the South African accent by spending a lot of time with the locals. DiCaprio said, “…Drinking beers with them, hearing their stories - a lot of guys from the South African military. I got to hang out with this guy [who was] really a sort of military expert and just listening to them talk. And, of course, I had an accent coach and he was there guiding me through it. But we had conversations with these people, listening to their stories, [and] made them say sentences over and over again. That’s just the kind of thing you do.


I wanted to definitely go to Africa early, because that whole area was completely alien to me. I had never really spent any time in Africa, let alone [with] a white South African man and their stories and accents. It was completely alien when I first heard of the film. It was about going there.”


Preparing for Blood Diamond: “There was a lot of military training too and we had a great stunt team too. We did a lot of faux military activities of hunting in the bush and tracking in the bush, what it was like to track in the bush. Hanging out with a lot of guys in the South African army. And really, that was really the tough stuff – getting that military background, because they are some of the best trained guys in the entire world as far as tracking is concerned and living in the bush. I didn’t go out and live in the bush for a week or even a day, but it was a matter of doing these exercises with them.


There is a certain amount you can get from books. You need to speak with the real people and ask specific questions that affect your character. Questions you have about your character, otherwise you’d be skimming through hundreds of books trying to get that specific answer.

What I was really overwhelmed with by Africa was its tremendous natural beauty. I got to go to some pretty amazing places. Every other weekend we got a day or two off and [could] go on a safari or see the natural wonders of Africa. If anyone gets the opportunity to go there, it’s something you have to do in your lifetime.”

What Did Leonardo DiCaprio Take Away From This Experience?: “You know, certainly paying a character like this who was taking advantage of the poverty around him and taking advantage of the continent, it posed for a lot of…what’s the word? It was uncomfortable as an actor to portray this man in front of an African crew in locations like Mozambique where there was a tremendous amount of poverty. Mozambique is a country that is having an economic resurgence, but 4 out of 10 people supposedly have HIV or AIDS. It’s an astounding [number].

What I was left with after spending time with Africa, and this is not at all to sound trivial, but it really was the power of the human spirit there. The fact that these people have been through so much. They have been in a civil war for 30 years, the poverty rate, but literally, people were still dancing in the streets. The joy, the energy, the happiness they exuded to everyone was unbelievable. It made me come back home and sort of not want to listen to anyone’s problems. I don’t want to hear what we as Americans have to deal with. When you are immersed in a place like that for six months and you see the extreme levels of what people have to deal with there, yet they are able to keep a positive attitude. You just don’t want to hear people’s problems out here anymore.”

Working with Djimon Hounsou: DiCaprio had nothing but praise for Hounsou’s work on Blood Diamond. “I mean, his character is really is the heart and soul of the movie, you know? The story of a man trying to find his son,” said DiCaprio, “and he embodied this character and the word is electrifying, the intensity that he gives in his performance. What can I say? He and I were kind of alone on set and it was me and him, and there is no other actor who could have given this performance. He is astounding in this movie and the energy and the intensity that you get off him as an actor, you get to play off each other every day. He is quite a brilliant actor.”