Introduction: Like Leo as the teen Anakin? Why do many folks feel so adamant about the casting choice? Here's some of our staff and friends' reaction to the possibility.
Scott Chitwood: I've posted my thoughts on DiCaprio on the site before, but here ya go again. I think Leo is as good a choice as any to play Anakin. Why? Well, as Yoda says, "Size Matters Not". A person does not have to match Darth Vader in size to be Anakin. After all, Darth Vader has a cyborg body. His original body could have been any size. Leo works in that respect. He can also swordfight, as we saw in The Man in the Iron Mask. A plus for a movie with lightsaber battles. He can also play dark characters (Basketball Diaries, The Man in the Iron Mask) or good guys (The Man in the Iron Mask, Titanic). Plus, he looks younger than Ewan McGregor while still looking the right age to be a love interest of Natalie Portman. But then again, any unknown actor could fit the bill with any of these qualifications.
I think the advantage DiCaprio would bring would be broadening audience appeal of Episode II. Let's face it, teenage girls are not the biggest segment of the Star Wars audience. As Titanic showed, DiCaprio can attract the female teenage audience. A good thing if you're rooting for Episode II to get the biggest box office record.
However, I personally don't think Lucas will go for DiCaprio. Why? The guy is too expensive. Why would Lucas pay millions to DiCaprio when he could get an unknown for a fraction of the cost? I think the miserly side of Lucas will prevail and you will not see DiCaprio in Star Wars (unless they make a sweet deal somehow).
But I must admit, my dark side would almost like to see Lucas cast Leo because I'd love to see how fans would react. According to some letters we receive, DiCaprio being cast as Anakin will bring about armageddon. Dogs and cats, living together! Mass Hysteria!!!! :) It reminds me very much of the fan's reaction to Michael Keaton being cast as Batman. "Mr. Mom as Batman!?!?! NOOOOO!!!!!" In the end, he was probably the best Batman of the bunch.
Joshua Griffin: I was the one that posted that the tide of opinion has been changing here at TFN. I'm not wanting to incite a flame war or anything, but I like him. Whether or not he actually gets the part or Lucas springs the cash for him is another story, but I do think he fits the bill.
At first, I was really opposed to this idea, but more and more it just keeps growing on me. I guess what really convinced me was seeing the new trailer we'll be releasing Friday to the TFN Theater including footage of Leonardo DiCaprio as Anakin. We all know he has the acting ability for the part. As vocal as the opposition has been, fans need to realize that he is a good actor and has enough presence as a teen Vader.
Have you seen how dark he could get in Romeo and Juliet? How about the pain in his face in Titanic? Call me crazy, but as Scott mentioned above, he handles a sword OK as well. We'll have to see. Is he capable of handling such a difficult role? The answer is yes. And once everyone get's used to it and if/when he's officially announced, folks will change their tune in a hurry.
Paul Davidson: My thoughts are somewhat opposite to Josh's. I originally didn't mind the idea, but as I've seen more and more of DiCaprio's acting, I'm convinced he's totally wrong for the part. Acting skills and physical build aside, I agree with one reader who noted that Leo is very much a "pretty boy" type of actor. Too cutesy and effeminate. Anakin Skywalker needs to be more masculine and rogueish ... a Luke Skywalker with more of an edge.
And on the practical side, Lucas is unlikely to spring for the kind of cash that DiCaprio would demand. And would DiCaprio serve to draw in new demographics, or would he instead offend the present Star Wars fan base? Questions to ponder. Anyway, my vote is no.
Christopher McElroy: I really don't get it. You'd think the fans would WANT to see Leo at the wrong end of Ewan's lightsaber, not to mention the volcano. Or is it the mental image of Leo sucking face with Natalie that's bugging people?
It seems to me that everybody's judging Leo from "Titanic" alone, ignoring (or simply ignorant of) his earlier work. It's a combination of his pretty-boy looks, his wild offscreen antics, and fan jealousy over the Boat that Ran Over the Death Star (tm). And in the case of guys, EXTREME jealousy over the guy who got billions of dollars worth of girlfriends to drag their boyfriends into the theaters. There's a reason "Titanic" made all that money, and it ain't the boat.
Brian Linder: The thought of Leo as Anakin first crossed my mind back in early May at the Star Wars Celebration. This was long before any of the rumors about him being up for the role were posted on the 'net. Rick McCallum was up on stage and was asked some question about Anakin casting and what the fans could expect. Basically McCallum thought it over a second and replied, "Expect the casting of Anakin to be something very bold!". I thought about this for a little while and the boldest move that I thought LFL could make would be to cast the one guy in Hollywood that is loved and hated most passionately...Leo. Sure enough word began to leak out a few weeks later that Leo had indeed talked with Lucas about the role, had been to Skywalker Ranch, etc. Then the constant stream of Leo flame mail started. :) There is a very focused group of Star Wars fandom who is so incredibly opposed to this decision it amazes me. I would wager to say that that's the same group (or at least there's some significant overlap) that are "Jar Jar haters". Heh heh. Now, I can certainly understand what some of you are saying, but let's think rationally about it. In some ways...simply due to the "young heartthrob" status that the media (from ET to TeenBeat) have given Leo, it might seem like casting one of the Backstreet Boys as Anakin. However, when you wipe away all the hype, and press, and crap, you have a very solid young actor. Now I'm not going to get into if he meets the physical requirements for the role, simply because I think Lucas does not feel as bound by that as much as some would think ("We'll just CG it!"). Now your feelings about Titanic aside (hating the movie because it had beaten Star Wars at the box office was another limited fan phenomenon that always baffled me), Leo has a very impressive career. His performance in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" was awesome, and his plain and simple performance in Titanic might just be the kind of thing that Lucas is looking for in Anakin. Who knows?
Remember, Producer Rick McCallum has publicly stated that there are many actors up for the role and Leo is far from the favorite, but we all know how spontaneously things can change in Lucas-land. The official line is that casting won't begin until George has finished the script (which he's taking some extra special time on this time), but one would imagine that Ms. Gurland has had principles in mind for months. I'm sure she has her favorites and is itching to go over them with George (if they haven't already).
It's interesting to see that fan opinion has leveled off on the Leo issue of late. Some fans are supportive of the idea, and some are just supportive of Lucas regardless of his decisions. There are some folks that have voiced very clear, and legitimate concerns about the Leo factor, but there is still this group of fandom that seem to react to this possibility in such a shallow and irrational way.
After saying all those things in Leo's defense, I have to say that I'd be much more pleased to see a fantastic unknown actor score this role. It think it would be most appropriate and clearly the best choice for the franchise as it stands right now.
Steve Head: I agree with Brian's statement. I'd much rather see a fantastic unknown actor get the part of Anakin Skywalker. In my opinion, DiCaprio would bring way too much star power to the role. Audiences know him too well. I think the "image" that is the character of Anakin should have a bit of mystery. As viewers, I think we would be more intrigued by being introduced to a different look, a different style and different mannerisms. There just to much to expect with DiCaprio, and there's little mystery.
This is not to say I don't think he's a great actor. He is. And I don't believe the Star Wars universe will be so incredibly harmed if gets the part. He's done an excellent job in many films. I thought he was fantastic in Titanic, despite what many people said (ex: stilted delivery). But for me, he just plain doesn't fulfill my image of an older Anakin.
For example, I think the casting of Tom Cruise as Lestat in Interview with the Vampire was an image shaker for many. The character was portrayed very well by an excellent actor, but to me Cruise just didn't look right for the part, and he brought too much star-power baggage along with him. The "image" that is the character of Lestat should have had bit of mystery. And I think the film could have been propelled to greatness had someone been cast who had a more non-hollywood image. People would have gone to go see this film without Tom Cruise.
Could this be the case with DiCaprio in Episode II? Of course having DiCaprio certainly wouldn't hurt at the box office, but the film is going to do well anyway, so it really doesn't make a difference. Star power is unnecessary here.
There's also the issue of DiCaprio's age. Of course, the argument could be made that age doesn't matter, as long as you look the part. DiCaprio looks young, but at 25 I think he's definitely too old for the part. He'd be playing a character 3 to 4 years younger than Natalie Portman's Amidala.
Helen Keier: Would Leonardo DiCaprio make a good Anakin? In my opinion, no. I?d like to start by saying this is my opinion, and only my opinion. I do not put forth this opinion as representing all female fans. It is only mine.
While DiCaprio?s not my cup of tea, I?m not going to say he isn?t handsome. A lot of women find him attractive. However, we?re talking about casting a film, and that film happens to be Star Wars. DiCaprio just doesn?t strike me as Anakin. In my opinion, DiCaprio doesn?t have the presence that an adult Anakin would have. In addition, I have never been overly enthusiastic about him as an actor, in an overall sense. DiCaprio succeeded in Titanic and Who?s Eating Gilbert Grape because he fit those particular parts. To cast DiCaprio (or any other actor) simply because he has become the modern equivalent of a matinee idol is wrong. Who knows? Maybe I just don?t "get" what DiCaprio's appeal is.
A New Hope was a revelatory experience for me, an epiphany - seeing Leia, blaster in hand, taking charge and rescuing the guys from a hopeless situation. There was a depth to the female role that I had missed in a childhood filled with fairy tales of fragile maidens being saved by Princes, quickly discarded Barbies, and being told I could not play Little League baseball for one reason and one reason only: because I was a girl. Leia?s significance was not from her looks, but from her strength of character. Carrie Fisher made Leia come alive for me, and for countless other female fans. Casting any part, in any movie, deserves nothing less than someone who is best able to create that sense of magic.
For a female fan to only see only the make-up and costumes and how "hunky" a star might be is to buy into the whole "Star Wars is a boys movie" myth. Star Wars is a story that has something for all of us, regardless of gender, despite what George Lucas says. As such, it can be argued that to a real fan, regardless of gender, the part of Anakin begs to be cast with someone who can embody the certain undefinables I mention above. The actor needs to convey the qualities that Obi-Wan in A New Hope described Anakin as having - the best star pilot in the galaxy, a cunning warrior, and a good friend. The right actor should be cast for the part, not one who is hired solely because he will make the girls in the audience swoon or make boat loads of money. At the moment I don?t believe DiCaprio is that person. If George feels DiCaprio is right, then I will wait like everyone else and see if the choice succeeds. That will be the only consideration I will bring into the theater. It is the only one any of us should, male or female.
Conclusion: Split. So, apparently you'll just have to settle for posting your reaction in the Jedicouncil and we'll all hope for official word soon!
January 20, 2000
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