Nearly all of us have had a celebrity crush (or two) in our day. For some it was James Dean, for others it was Farrah Fawcett. For yours truly it was Leonardo DiCaprio. Living alone during the early-to-mid-nineties, I would pine over the (many) photo shoots Leo had done as an up & coming young actor. So, yeah, I thought he was cute. Then again, a lot of actors are cute. Leo has always had something more.
Indeed, pre-Titanic DiCaprio has always been my favorite version of Leo. Before that supremely popular ship set sail (see what I did there?), Leo's resume was full of quirky, quality films. The likes of What's Eating Gilbert Grape, This Boy's Life, Basketball Diaries, The Quick and the Dead, Romeo + Juliet and Total Eclipse are enough for any actor to be proud of. His post-Titanic career is almost icing on the cake.
Consider the character of young Toby from This Boy's Life. Attached to his mom, he goes with her as she remarries, and is forced to endure an abusive step-father (Robert DeNiro). Seemingly heterosexual, he seems to take the advances of local gay teen in stride. The scene when he and his mother finally break free of the step-father is a cathartic experience I could relate to.
What of Leo's portrayal of Jim Carroll in the true-to-life Basketball Diaries? That was a difficult film to watch. To witness the character's descent into drug addiction and prostitution was uncomfortable and heartbreaking, but then it was supposed to be. It's a gritty, uncompromising performance.
And, of course, there's Leo's turn as poet Arthur Rimbaud in 1995's period piece Total Eclipse. Playing opposite David Thewlis as Paul Verlaine, the film unflinchingly follows Verlaine & Rimbaud's tumultuous relationship. Leo is young, arrogant, sexy and, at the very least, bisexual in this movie, and has a nude scene and a same-sex kiss. It's the sort of edgy role that he wouldn't really take-on post-Titanic.
Leonardo DiCaprio is one of my very favorite actors. He's cute, he's talented, and he served as my celebrity crush for a number of years back in the '90s. I've enjoyed nearly everything he's been in and, while he certainly needed no validation from the Academy Awards, it was still nice to see him have his moment last night. Truly well-deserved.