Monday, July 22, 2024

Leonardo DiCaprio: Oscar Campaign in Full Swing as “Revenant” Mauls “Star Wars” on Opening Night


“The Revenant,” with all its blood and guts, the mauling bear and gorgeous natural light photography, beat “Star Wars” on its opening night. The Leonardo DiCaprio epic made just over $14 million on Friday night vs. a Jedi $10 million.

With “The Revenant” expanding into general release, DiCaprio is also ramping up his Oscar campaign for Best Actor. The little gold man is his to lose. After twenty years in the game, DiCaprio — who’s had several top notch performances–has little competition. This year was not a good one for leading men. “Spotlight” and “The Big Short” came off as ensemble pieces. Matt Damon in “The Martian” might be the strongest candidate. Michael Fassbender as “Steve Jobs” is wonderful, but the movie fizzled. Will Smith is good in “Concussion,” but the movie hasn’t really broken out. Eddie Redmayne is convincing in “The Danish Girl,” but he just won the Oscar.

One industry insider observed to me: “I’d watch Bryan Cranston once Leo wins the Golden Globe. Hollywood really likes “Trumbo,” and Cranston has a lot of good will built up from Breaking Bad. He’s really liked.”

The major difference between “The Revenant” and the other films with lead actors? “The Revenant” push has mostly been stealth. It’s been aimed directly at Oscar voters. This past week, DiCaprio was feted in New York at a private lunch, and then in Hollywood at a private dinner. There’s been no press involvement. In New York, Sting sang Happy Birthday to his wife, Trudie Styler, which wowed the crowd of Academy voters. Stars on the level of Barbra Streisand, Warren Beatty and Sean Penn were enlisted for the west coast dinner.

And all the anecdotes have been fed to gossip columns instead of being witnessed. This is quite the opposite of campaigns for other movies. For instance, Matt Damon mixed and mingled last week, charming as ever, with press and Oscar voters at a 21 Club tea. Will Smith has made himself ultra accessible for “Concussion.” Ditto the “Spotlight,” “Hateful Eight,” and “Big Short” casts.

Cleverly, DiCaprio’s Oscar campaign casts him as a real life version of Robert Redford’s “Candidate.”

So now everyone waits to see what happens tomorrow night. DiCaprio should win the Golden Globe handily. He’s won it before, for “The Aviator.” Once that’s over, it will be interesting to see who is nominated for Lead Actor by the Oscars on Thursday. From that group, perhaps Cranston or Smith or Damon will launch an offensive to grab the real gold.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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