DiCaprio had previously been nominated for “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” (1993), “The Aviator” (2004), “Blood Diamond” (2006) and “The Wolf of Wall Street” (2013). He was also nominated for best picture as a producer of “Wolf.”
In addition to those notices, he has been Golden Globe-nominated six other times, for “Titanic” (1997), “Catch Me If You Can” (2002), “The Departed” (2006), “Revolutionary Road” (2008), “J. Edgar” (2011) and “Django Unchained” (2013). He won for “The Aviator,” “Wolf” and “Revenant,” but the Oscar had been elusive.
“Thank you to [Alejandro G. Inarritu] and Chivo [cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki] for creating a transcendent cinematic experience,” DiCaprio said, Oscar (finally) in hand. He went on to speak again about climate change and how his experience on the film only fueled his passion in fighting it all the more. “Let us not take this planet for granted,” he said. “I do not take this night for granted.”
Much has been made throughout the season of the hardships faced by the production of “The Revenant,” with a particular focus on DiCaprio’s work ethic. The star ate raw bison liver, learned how to shoot a musket and speak two Native American languages (Pawnee and Arikara), studied with a doctor who specialized in ancient healing techniques and was violently tossed around by a stunt rig for the film’s harrowing bear-mauling sequence.
The latter took on a bizarre life of its own after Matt Drudge published a bogus report that DiCaprio had been “raped” by the animal on set (a claim that 20th Century Fox was eventually forced, in farcical fashion befitting an era where someone like Donald Trump can be taken seriously in a presidential election, to debunk with a straight-faced denial). In the run-up to the Academy Awards, meanwhile, an 8-bit racing game called “Leo’s Red Carpet Rampage,” which lampooned DiCaprio’s seemingly cursed Oscar track record, caught fire online.
All of that speaks to the pop cultural staying power of DiCaprio’s narrative this season. What’s more, no other performance came along to truly challenge him, with “Steve Jobs” star Michael Fassbender being perhaps the only nominee with an angle along the way. But the box office failure of that film was obviously held against it by the Academy, which nominated it for just one other award (Kate Winslet in supporting actress) and even passed over writer Aaron Sorkin’s Golden Globe-winning, rat-tat-tat screenplay. Other strong players like Johnny Depp (“Black Mass”), Michael B. Jordan (“Creed”) and Will Smith (“Concussion”) never even made it to the dance.