' ' Cinema Romantico: Leo's Special Sauce

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Leo's Special Sauce

Kaleb Horton wrote a fantastic profile of the singer-songwriter Jason Isbell for GQ that published last Friday. And though it is more than worth reading in full, especially if you’re an Isbell fan, or even if just curious about what acclaimed singer-songwriters are like these days, there was one passage of special fascination to the blog. Because Isbell starred in Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” which we reviewed yesterday, and shared some scenes with Leonardo DiCaprio. Leo is an actor who often comes across guarded in interviews, not that I necessarily blame him, and through nothing more than a rather comic episode of flatulence on set (not his), Isbell provides as unique a window into Leo’s acting process as you’re probably ever gonna get. You should read the whole story at GQ, which we link right here so click, but below we have quoted Isbell’s tale of Leo’s process in full. 

“So one night, after I'd done a couple scenes and been kind of anxious and stressed about it, we got to the scene where my character [Bill Smith] and Leo’s character [Ernest Burkhart] were in the house. My biggest scene in the movie. We're sort of talking shit to each other, and our wives and sisters are at the dining room table, and it keeps cutting back and forth between the two of them and me and him.

"We did that scene for three or four hours, and we kept riffing and getting more intense. And sometimes I would hear Marty laugh from the other room because I was just being like a redneck getting in a fight.

"And at one point we're standing up, in each other's faces. He's telling me he's gonna shoot me. Blow my fucking head off. And it's dead quiet. There's about 30 crew people in the room. And it's a tiny house.”

He leans in closer. His voice gets low and somber, like he’s about to reveal a secret to his FBI handler.

“And somebody on the crew farts, and it's very loud. And it's particularly funny because you could tell that whoever did it had lost a great battle trying not to fart. You could just hear in the pitch of it, that they were doing everything they could possibly do. And then because everybody in there is the best in the world at their job, nobody laughed. Nobody stood.

"And immediately, I thought of Farticus. You know, Spartacus, but I am Farticus. Leo and I start laughing at the fart. It's funny. Having never done a movie before, I think we're just gonna laugh for a minute and start over.

"But somewhere in that laugh, Leo folds it into his character. All of a sudden, it's Ernest laughing at Bill. And in that moment, I thought, this is why one of us has an Oscar, and one of us is me because I just got outgunned; I was laughing like an idiot. I was no longer a character, but he was still Ernest. It taught me about taking acting seriously, because he never even left character. He was laughing in character. It was impressive.”

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