Eleven years after their romance aboard the ill-fated Titanic, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet are together again in Revolutionary Road.
The superstar duo play a married couple with children trying to overcome the monotony of suburban life. DiCaprio credits Winslet with bringing them back together under the direction of her husband, Sam Mendes.
Even though you and Kate haven’t worked together since Titanic you have kept in touch haven’t you?
We’ve known each other since we were teenagers, and she’s remained one of my closest friends. It was Kate who brought me the novel by Richard Yates on which the film is based. Her enthusiasm was contagious and she really was the spark plug in getting me involved.
What’s it like to get passionate with her in scenes while being directed by her husband?
I mean, there’s a certain weirdness to lifting the director’s wife up on the kitchen counter to make love while he’s watching in the monitor. But I honestly didn’t feel it was that strange because Sam was very careful to say, ‘I’m letting you guys be your own couple.’ He was very conscious of letting us sort of have our relationship on set.
What about the shockingly intense verbal and even occasionally physical fights the two of you have?
For me, there was such an excitement level doing those scenes after waiting for weeks to film them. After all the anticipation, we actually got to release this stuff that we’d been sort of holding back. We were like, ‘When do I get to scream in your face? I can’t wait for that fight scene tomorrow because I’m going to give it to you.’ And Kate was game for anything. She’d have let me strangle her until she passed out in a scene if I had wanted to.
In spite of the angst, there’s a lot of reality in their relationship, isn’t there?
That’s what attracted me because it’s not a simple love story. It’s about a couple trying to cling to the idyllic image of what an American family is supposed to be, but the struggle tears them apart because they feel like they’ve become clichés and lost their identity.
There’s a lot of focus on what love and relationships are all about in Revolutionary Road. Does living those moments on the set help you in real life?
I’ve played characters who have gone to the extreme of love so that’s a tough act to follow. I try my best. I feel certain things and I do the best that I can to show the people around me how much I care for them. And equally important, to show them what I care about. I’m not sure I’m that good at defining the meaning of love. Am I an old-fashioned romantic? Sometimes I am.
Is it getting any easier to be famous, to deal with the endless media scrutiny and keep your own identity?
You have to deal with who you really are in the end. If you have internal demons, you are going to have to deal with them no matter whether you’re famous or not. We’ve all heard a million stories of people that have gotten fame and wealth and great opportunity and ruined it all. There is no handbook on how to experience fame. I couldn’t go to like get a self-help book on what to do when you become famous. Nobody wrote that book. It is something you have to experience on your own. You make some mistakes, and you learn in the process.
Starting out as a very young actor, what did you learn as you paid your dues?
I was systematically rejected at 14 for a full year. I went on hundreds of auditions and didn’t get a single job. That helps you not to care too much. There’s a part of you that says, ‘You know what, not everything is hinged on this one job.’ And that kind of relaxes you a little bit more, and you’re able to be a little more freed up as an actor.
What do you get from acting now?
Acting is the only thing that I’ve held onto that is true about who I am. Everything else seems to change in life. Everything else seems to be metamorphosing into something different, but acting, being a performer, is the only thing that I have known ever since I was a kid. It has consumed me in a lot of different ways. It’s like something that I can’t escape.