I was surprised that DiCaprio actually showed up, considering he’s not much for public appearances. “I hate talk shows,” he told Harper’s Bazaar in 1995, “And you know what? I’m never going to do one again.” However, he’s since broken that promise, and with multiple award shows coming up, I think Miramax has pushed him to go out and schmooze up some votes—and given that this particular screening was centered around union actors (who will be voting in the much-coveted-by-actors SAG and BAFTA awards, for which DiCaprio and Alda are both nominees) and a few journalists, it must’ve seemed like a worthy opportunity to discuss his craft.
One would half-expect a mega-star like DiCaprio to shuffle in and out as quickly as possibly, but he showed up promptly at the end of the film, around 11 pm, and stuck around till nearly midnight, despite ear-splitting technical problems involving the shabby cordless microphones the actors were supposed to use. He was gracious and generally intelligent and provided a lot of insight into the making of the movie. I almost feel bad for referring to him as DiCRAPio for most of my life. But, my god, he so often seems like such a whiny, scene chewing, overrated thespian. I mean, have you scene The Beach? What dreck! And I won’t even get into his preening in Titanic. . .
But that makes me think: The reason journos so often write lovingly about celebrities in magazine profiles isn’t because they’re star-struck (journalists are a jaded lot) or because they’ve been paid off by the studios (well, crap mags like Movieline’s Hollywood Life are willing to occasionally kiss ass in exchange for favors, but I’m talking about higher-brow publications). No, it’s because when you speak to a star in real life, you’re instantly struck by just how damn real they are. Heck, sometimes they’re even literate. There are plenty of prima donnas out there, but when a guy like DiCrapio (oops, I did it again) turns out to be a nice fella, it’s hard to take jabs at his pretty face.
That being said, Alda is much better in front of a crowd. When the mikes went out, his theatre training kicked in and his voice expanded clearly to the back of the movie house. Whenever the moderator ran out of questions, Alda picked up the slack by interviewing DiCaprio himself. And whenever DiCaprio’s sentences puttered off, Alda filled in the gaps with one amusing anecdote after the next. He was unstoppably funny and gregarious.