Driving to Silver Lake to visit his father, ‘Wolf from the Wall Street” star passed the neighborhood where he spent the first nine years of his life. Back then, DiCaprio confessed, he’d be in the car, driving to and from school, and see prostitutes on every corner. In the alleyway near his home, he’d occasionally notice people smoking crack and shooting heroin.
“I try to tell my godson, who lives close to that area, what it was like, how there used to be a major prostitution ring on my street corner, crime and violence everywhere. It really was like ‘Taxi Driver’ in a lot of ways,” DiCaprio said.
“And I’m not sure he believes me. It’s hipster central, totally gentrified now. The Waterbed Hotel?” DiCaprio laughs. “I don’t think that’s there anymore.”
DiCaprio likes to speak of his fifth collaboration with legendary director Martin Scorsese. The movie, nominated for five Oscars, including best picture and a lead actor nod for DiCaprio, reveals the story of former stockbroker Jordan Belfort and his merry band of idiot scam artists at the Stratton Oakmont brokerage firm.
The movie has faced some critisism on whether “Wolf” exalts the excesses it depicts. Some reporters even questioned what right a wealthy Hollywood star like DiCaprio had to address the subject of income disparity in America.
“Who am I to talk about this?” DiCaprio says, opening a second bottle of Coke, warming to the subject. “It goes back to that neighborhood. It came from the fact that I grew up very poor and I got to see the other side of the spectrum.”
And even despite his repforming of a crazy and drug-addicted broker, DiCaprio admits that he has never indulged in drug use, reinforcing the notion that, in the words of longtime friend Kevin Connolly, DiCaprio is a “painfully normal guy.”
“Never done it.That’s because I saw this stuff literally every day when I was 3 or 4 years old. So Hollywood was a walk in the park for me…” he says.
“I’d go to parties and it was there and, yeah, there’s that temptation. Hollywood is a very volatile place where artists come in and they essentially say they want to belong.”
He continues: “It’s incredibly vulnerable to be an actor and also get criticism at a young age when you’re formulating who you are. We’ve seen a lot of people fall victim to that, and it’s very unfortunate.”
In the picture there’s a Quaalude scene when Jonah Hill’s her chokes on a piece of ham and, for a brief moment, DiCaprio’s Belfort considers not doing anything to save him.
“I’m always a bit more, ‘Let’s make sure people get that moment,’ and Marty says, ‘No kid. We don’t need a voice-over there. Just let the audience sit with that,'” DiCaprio says.
“And that’s been the great learning experience for me with him. You’re always looking for that one, definitive answer, but it’s always more satisfying if you let people do the work themselves and reach their own conclusions. That doesn’t mean the answer’s not there. It’s just not obvious.”