Leonardo Dicaprio Reveals the Biggest Risk of His Career

Leonardo DiCaprio won our hearts the moment we first saw him light up our screens. Yet before becoming the big movie star that we know him as today, DiCaprio was co-starring as a reoccurring character on Growing Pains. His first big movie break was in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. DiCaprio has a longstanding career in cinema, but what was the biggest risk the actor has ever taken in his career? 

Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio, circa 1993 | Rose Hartman/Getty Images

Leonardo DiCaprio chooses passion over money when it comes to picking his movie roles

DiCaprio is admirable because he never works on a movie project for the sake of a paycheck. Instead, he seeks out roles that he finds most rewarding and challenging. When DiCaprio was only seventeen, he had the opportunity to star in Hocus Pocus.

Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio | Catherine McGann/Getty Images

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Although it would have been a great opportunity for DiCaprio to work alongside seasoned actors such as Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker, the young actor felt more passionate about a role in the movie What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. DiCaprio admits he was offered a fortune to star in Hocus Pocus. Yet the Oscar-winning actor had to go with his gut by turning it down. Instead, he wanted to play the challenging role of Arnie from What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. According to Johnny Depp, who plays his brother in the film, DiCaprio worked really hard on the role and did a ton of research to perfect his part. 

Leonardo DiCaprio’s biggest risk in his acting career

DiCaprio says the greatest risk that paid off as an actor was starring in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. He reveals during the Golden Globes,

“I suppose there was another project when I was seventeen years old. There’s this one film called What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, that I desperately wanted to do. And it was the first time I got offered a lot of money for the first time in my life to do this other role. I waited, and I waited. And I’m pretty proud of myself for that age, that I was that passionate about something and a character. So that paid off a lot for me, and I got to work with some unbelievable people, and I’m very proud of that movie.” 

Leonardo DiCaprio didn’t want to play Jack Dawson in ‘Titanic’ at first

According to W Magazine, DiCaprio was reluctant to star in Titanic. The reason for his hesitance was because he thought playing Jack would be “too easy.” DiCaprio prefers playing complex roles with layers to them, as we have seen in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. But the film’s producer, Rae Sanchini, was able to help convince him otherwise. She persuaded DiCaprio by telling him, 

“Jack is the purest of heart. We meet him, and he’s not conflicted,” she said. “He knows exactly who he is. He knows his place in the world. He’s fearless…he falls in love, but he doesn’t change as a person…He makes his choice to die for the woman he loves, and he’s at peace with that.” 

DiCaprio, who prefers to play characters that are “deeply flawed,” found playing a character like Jack Dawson to be “a challenge in itself.” Sanchini puts it best, saying, “playing a character like Jack, who doesn’t have any obvious stuff to hide behind…was a challenge in and of itself.”