Of Leonardo DiCaprio, Oscars, Overalls, and Shovels

Of DiCaprio, Oscars, Overalls, and Shovels

How Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscar Win Shows Us the Path for Success in Our Own Lives.

DiCaprio, Oscars, Overalls, and Shovels = 29-02-2016 copy.jpg

Today, something great happened.

Leonardo DiCaprio won his first Oscar.

At last!

In a career that has spanned over 25 years thus far, he has produced innumerable performances that have awed both critics and fans alike. He has played a wide range of characters such as a drug addict, a penniless romantic, a merciless king and his incarcerated brother, a gang lord, a con artist, a playboy millionaire, a troubled millionaire, a diamond smuggler, an undercover cop, a CIA spy, a dream planter, a delusional psyche patient, a racist slave owner, etc. His versatility is truly amazing. He continually sets the bar higher and each movie that he acts in gets better. Just when you think you have seen his best role till date, he surprises you with his next movie.

And yet, he had never won an Oscar.

Despite being nominated for his first Oscar at the age of 19 for his movie “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” and following that up with five more Oscar nominations, that elusive trophy (what some would consider the “holy grail” of the acting world) kept passing him by. Award show after award show came and went and with each one the same picture was seen: The glowing and excited face of the latest Oscar winner while Leo stood in the back with a smile on his face—the same smile that adorns the faces of a bridesmaid whose one true love has married her best friend instead.

So stunning were his performances and so equally stunning his award snub that it soon became the stuff of comedy. Millions of memes flooded the internet over the years humouring his misfortune. A common joke was that one day a movie would be made of his life and how he never won an Oscar, and that the actor playing him would win the Oscar for his performance. Even a computer game on his chase for an Oscar was recently made.

Leo, it seemed, was destined to always come up short. Always the bridesmaid; never the bride.

And yet, today, everything changed. On the 28th of February 2016, Leonardo’s name was finally called out and, to his unspeakable joy, he was handed that coveted award. Leo had done it. He was finally an Oscar winner.

But he almost didn’t make the movie that won him the award.

“The Revenant”, the film of the year, the cinematic masterpiece that drew accolades from all corners of society and turned even the harshest of critics into adoring fans, the gold dust film that swept award shows around the country and got 12 Oscar nominations (eventually winning three), the groundbreaking movie that people will be talking about for years—almost didn’t get made!

To put it honestly, “The Revenant” was a movie that no one wanted to make.

The development of the film began all the way back in 2001, with Akiva Goldsman as the producer [1], Park Chan-wook as the director, and Samuel L Jackson as the main actor. [2] Park then quit the project and the development was stalled until 2010 when John Hillcoat came on board to direct the film and Christian Bale was chosen to play the main role. True to the bad luck of the film thus far, Hillcoat left the project in October 2010. [3] The project was left rudderless until Alejandro G. Iñárritu signed on to direct in August 2011. [4] It was then that he began to pursue Sean Penn and Leonardo DiCaprio to play the main roles. [5]

Excitement followed the bringing of Iñárritu on board and things began to happen. Rewrites were made and sequences were fleshed out. Leonardo Di Caprio had signed on to play the protagonist and Sean Penn had signed on to play the other main role. After 10 years, the project finally seemed to be coming together.

Then the film was put on hold in March 2012, as New Regency hired Iñárritu to direct another film, which he accepted. [6] Although that project never saw the light, it had pushed “The Revenant” to the back of Iñárritu’s mind and when he announced his next film in December 2012, “Birdman”—not “The Revenant”—was the word on his lips. [7] Finally, with “Birdman” complete, Iñárritu turned his attention to “The Revenant” once more.

However, financing soon became an issue and their big time financers Worldview Entertainment pulled out in July 2014 due to the departure of their CEO.

Disillusioned, Iñárritu threatened to quit. At this time, actors Leo and Sean Penn were also getting disillusioned with the film. Penn quit the project. Leo almost did as well. Back in 2011 when he sensed the turbulence around the project, he was advised to sign a “pay-or-play” contracts which stated that he would get paid whether or not the movie got made. After Sean Penn’s departure, Leo too wanted to leave the film and focus on his other upcoming projects, but was convinced to stay as he would get paid regardless.

In the end, it was the “pay-or-play” contracts that convinced the producers to finally go ahead and make the movie as they were going to have to lose money anyways. And so they brought Annapurna Pictures on board and began filming in October of 2014. Tom Hardy soon joined in as well. [8]

And the rest is history.

Today, Leonardo Di Caprio stands on the coveted stage of the Dolby Theater, finally cradling the illusive golden statuette that symbolizes his ultimate achievement as an actor—for a film that he almost didn’t do.

I believe there is a profound lesson to be learned here. And that lesson is this: sometimes the things that we like to do the least may reward us in the ways that we desire most.

I’ll say that again. Sometimes, the things that we like to do the least may reward us in the ways that we desire most.

So take a look at your life. What successes are you looking for that seem to be eluding you? What area of your life do you seem to be eternally striving for glory in without success? Maybe it’s time to do something that you don’t exactly want to do in order to get the success that you are after?

We all have things that we avoid in our life’s road that would bring us success if we pursued them. But we don’t pursue them because they often come labelled as “Hard Work” or dressed in the disguise of difficulty. I know I have turned down my fair share of opportunities that have come across my path because I didn’t like the way that they presented themselves. And by that, I mean that I didn’t like the fact that they looked like a lot of work.

One of my favourite quotes of all time was said by the great inventor Thomas Edison: “Opportunity is missed by many because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

What opportunity in your life is knocking on your door wearing overalls and handing you a shovel? Maybe it’s time to roll up your sleeves and join in on the construction crew. Who knows, maybe in the end you’ll find that the house of success that you built—and possibly against your will—might just the be the place that you come to call home.



[1] http://www.ign.com/articles/2001/08/09/akiva-goldsman-mauled-by-grizzly

[2] http://www.slashfilm.com/tom-hardy-leonardo-dicaprio-alejandro-gonzalez-inarritu-revenant/

[3] http://www.darkhorizons.com/news/18531

[4] http://www.thewrap.com/movies/column-post/babel-director-alejandro-gonzalez-inarritu-attached-wbs-revenant-exclusive-30191/

[5] http://deadline.com/2011/11/leonardo-dicaprio-sean-penn-wanted-men-for-new-regencys-the-revenant-191364/

[6] http://variety.com/2012/film/news/new-regency-backing-inarritu-pic-1118051246/

[7] http://deadline.com/2012/12/a-departure-for-alejandro-gonzalez-inarritu-hell-next-direct-a-comedy-384673/

[8] http://variety.com/2014/film/news/leonardo-dicaprios-survival-drama-the-revenant-attracts-megan-ellisons-annapurna-1201261423/



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