Leonardo DiCaprio: Grape Expectations

Maybe it was the pain that came with wading into the part of a brutalized teenager in This Boy's Life, but star-in-the-making Leonardo DiCaprio, 19, says he relished playing Arnie, Johnny Depp's dimwitted brother in Gilbert Grape, a winsomely oddball comedy-drama from director Lasse Hallstrom (My Life as a Dog).

"He's the most honest character in the whole movie--that's why I like him," says DiCaprio. "But he's always blabbering or drooling or jumping up and down--he's pretty damn out there." And there was the added pleasure (the kind savored only by good-looking, in-demand actors) of "looking like the most disgusting kid on earth. I had a chili-bowl haircut. I looked so vile, it was great."

Tall, narrow and pale, Leonardo--Leo to his friends--has a focus about him, an air of quiet consideration. And there's a lot to consider. The kid received raves for his career-making work in This Boy's Life, which pitted him against Robert De Niro at his loathsome best. Now, building on the momentum by signing with top-dog agency CAA, Leo's main order of business is to avoid making big, dumb, shitty movies. "I just feel that so many movies are more and more contrived... I'm not saying I want to be Mr. Dark Underground Artist and do only smaller-type films, but those are the only ones that have any real content." Which no doubt explains Leo's interest in the dark-sounding Dead Giveaway, in which he's considering portraying a teenage serial killer. The film, to be directed by John Schlesinger, co-stars Sally Field and Jon Voight as the psycho teen's parents. Pretty damn out there for a guy who only graduated from high school last year, and still lives with his mother.


Jeffrey Wells