"I want to be a part of pieces of art"

We sat down with Leonardo DiCaprio to discuss his new movie, Body of Lies. It's directed by Ridley Scott, co-stars Russel Crowe and is released on November 21.

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Of course, a lot of old-school actors, De Niro, Nicholson etc, have gone on the record, citing you as the best actor of your generation…

Show me these records! [Laughs] Have you got them?

How does it make you feel?

If they did say that, I’m honoured and humbled. I’ve heard some things here and there but these people inspired me. When I got the part in This Boy’s Life at 16, I watched every film that I possibly could from the 1970s and that generation are the heroes that I looked up to.

My main objective as an actor was to do a performance that good, or be in a movie that good.

How’s Shutter Island looking?

I don’t know! When Martin Scorsese and Thelma Schoonmaker get into an editing room, they lock the doors and they just go to work for a year. They’re old cinéphiles in that regard, so we’ll see…

What is it about Scorsese that makes you keep working with him?

Well, I’m a fan of his work, number one. The truth is that I suppose it all started from me wanting to work with him. Doing This Boy’s Life with Robert De Niro I needed to get familiar with De Niro’s work, so that obviously meant Martin Scorsese’s work as well.

So I became a fan. At a very early age if you would’ve asked me who I wanted to work with, it would’ve been Marty. I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity with Gangs Of New York and then I think from there we just have a good time working together. We have similar tastes.

He has certainly broadened my spectrum in terms of films that are out there and the history of cinema and the importance of cinema. I look at him as a mentor.

Do you ever get offered roles that are a bit leftfield?

Well, I absolutely do get offered the recycled action movie, or the recycled love story that we’ve seen a million times before. I never get offended, because I think that each director sees something unique in that piece of material that I definitely don’t see.

Are you still developing the Ian Fleming movie with your production company?

Yes, we are. I’m a Bond fan and it’s an interesting setup. I mean, you know, it’s shrouded in mystery as far as what his real activities were in pivotal points in history. At this point, it’s still in development so I couldn’t say definitively whether I’m doing something or not because the script isn’t there yet, but it certainly seems like a really compelling character to play if done right.

Do you have any desire to direct?

I’ve often thought about whether I want to be a director or not, but I think I have a lot more roles that I want to play, and I don’t know how I would be as a director. I think I might be a little too controlling!

You still appear to be very enamoured of the filmmaking process.

I look at film and cinema as legitimate an art form as sculpture or painting or anything else. It is a true art form and we’re in the beginning of it, we’re in the first hundred years or so of cinema. It’s still in its infancy.

I’m very curious to see what types of films last into the next 1,000 years, in the the same way as what paintings people still look at today. I want to be a part of pieces of art that people will want to see for generations to come. That’s my dream.

The Total Film team are made up of the finest minds in all of film journalism. They are: Editor Jane Crowther, Deputy Editor Matt Maytum, Reviews Ed Matthew Leyland, News Editor Jordan Farley, and Online Editor Emily Murray. Expect exclusive news, reviews, features, and more from the team behind the smarter movie magazine.