Robert De Niro Helped Leonardo DiCaprio Land His Role in ‘This Boy’s Life’ After DiCaprio Screamed in His Face During the Audition

Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio have quite a history together. The two have shared the screen in several films, most notably This Boy’s Life. Both actors are widely-considered the best in their generation, and both have a commanding presence in every role.

This Boy’s Life is particularly special for DiCaprio because it was one of his earliest film roles and taught him a lot about the industry. De Niro played an especially important part in the film—and in  DiCaprio’s career—because he lobbied for DiCaprio to land the starring role. 

Leonardo DiCaprio competed with Tobey Maguire for his role in ‘This Boy’s Life’

Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio
(L-R) Robert De Niro accepts the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award from Leonardo DiCaprio | Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for Turner

RELATED: Leonardo DiCaprio Recalls How Competitive His Childhood Auditions Used to Be — ‘I Remember a Kid Bringing a Gun to An Audition’

During a 2014 interview with Variety, it was revealed that DiCaprio had to compete with over 400 kids for his role in This Boy’s Life. Interestingly enough, one of the other kids who auditioned for the role was his longtime-friend Tobey Maguire. 

Although DiCaprio got the starring role, DiCaprio and Maguire would end up competing for many of the same roles in the future. 

Leonardo DiCaprio had to audition in front of Robert De Niro 

In the same interview, DiCaprio recalled what the audition experience was like for him at that age, specifically when he got to meet legendary actor Robert De Niro. 

“That was one of those incredible auditions that came around,” DiCaprio said. “I suppose every kid had been waiting for [it] for a long period of time because it’s just not that often that you get a starring role above Robert De Niro … everyone was sort of fiending for this role. And I got down, I suppose, to the final five, and it was like a last sort of day. Tobey was there, and I do remember thinking to myself, ‘I gotta do something to stand out.’ …”

Leonardo DiCaprio screamed in Robert De Niro’s face to make an impression

Although DiCaprio was already one of the finalists for the role, he knew he had to do something special to land it. Thinking quickly, he came up with a unique way to get everyone’s attention during the audition.

“I remember there was a mustard jar scene, and he had to jam a mustard jar in my eye repeatedly, it was an abuse scene,” DiCaprio said. “And the script sort of didn’t call for it, but I got up and he said, ‘Is it empty? Is it empty?’ And I got up and I screamed, ‘No!” … I screamed in his face, and I sat there with my head looking like a red tomato and everyone started laughing at me. … And I sat there frozen, just thinking, ‘Oh my god, I just screwed this entire opportunity up.’ … And then Bob, in traditional De Niro fashion, kind of just looked at me and went, ‘It’s good.’ …”

DiCaprio then revealed that it was De Niro who fought for him to get the role in This Boy’s Life after his moving audition performance. 

Leonardo DiCaprio feels the most nostalgia with ‘This Boy’s Life’ 

Although DiCaprio was only 15 years old when he starred in This Boy’s Life, the film has provided DiCaprio some of his fondest memories on set. For him, the movie stands out because every moment of production was a brand new experience.  

“As far as memories are concerned, I’m the most nostalgic about that movie and I remember every single day on set, because everything was so new to me,” DiCaprio said. “Having come straight from a sitcom where everything was very relaxed on set, everyone was constantly joking around, to having De Niro walk on set. And the difference that the sort of dynamic and presence that he had with the crew was just—I was like, ‘What is going on here? … I can’t quite fathom what everyone’s so serious about. …”