NEW YORK (Reuters) - Leonardo DiCaprio may not remind movie fans of a young Robert De Niro, but he has taken on one of the intense New York actor’s rewarding legacies.
DiCaprio, who won adoration and became a box office draw in “Titanic,” has become the favored star of U.S. film director Martin Scorsese, whose pairing with De Niro catapulted both their careers in films like “Taxi Driver” and “Raging Bull.”
Similarly, DiCaprio and Scorsese’s names appeared together on movie marquees in “Gangs of New York” and “The Aviator,” and now with their new fourth film together, “Shutter Island,” the two are becoming synonymous with good filmmaking.
The psychological thriller hits U.S. theaters on February 19 after its premiere at the Berlin film festival this weekend.
“For me it is very simple,” DiCaprio, 35, told Reuters about their pairing. “I am getting to work with the consummate director of my time. He is the definitive living director.”
In “Shutter Island” a scruffy-looking DiCaprio plays a detective investigating a murder in a mental asylum on a remote island near Massachusetts. The film is based on the 2003 novel of the same name by author Dennis Lehane.
DiCaprio described the movie as approaching “a thriller with aspects of gothic horror and the psychological.” Some critics have compared it to Scorsese’s 1991 film “Cape Fear,” starring De Niro, with whom he has made nine feature films.
“We definitely pushed the boundaries -- more so than ever before -- on this with our work together,” said DiCaprio. “The different levels of emotion were certainly the most intense.”
Scorsese, 67, who won an Oscar for “The Departed,” has acknowledged his and DiCaprio’s blossoming pairing, comparing it to his former favorites, Harvey Keitel and De Niro.
“Sometimes, you relate to an actor in ways you can’t explain,” Scorsese recently told USA Today about DiCaprio.
“I felt it with Harvey, I felt it with Robert, I feel it now ... you develop a rhythm that’s hard to find in this business. But if you do find it, you don’t let it go.”
DiCaprio said the relationship has been fortified through the sheer amount of time spent together on movie sets.
“There are no arguments, there is no friction because he will allow me to do whatever I want,” DiCaprio said, noting the two have similar film tastes and a shared background.
“It isn’t like a father and son relationship. I look at him like a mentor and a friend but funnily enough ... he is an Italian-American from my father’s neighborhood in Queens and he is the same age as my dad, which is kind of funny,” he said.
Their success has helped DiCaprio, who grew up in Los Angeles after his parents divorced at an early age, seal his ability to get a film financed on his name alone.
DiCaprio’s “bankability” as one of Hollywood’s top leading men -- he can command at least $20 million for some pictures -- has helped him rise in Hollywood’s ranks from mere actor to film producer.
“Bankability is an important thing. I really discovered that when it was something I was fortunate to have after ‘Titanic’,” he said. “To be able to finance movies ... it’s a good position to be in. I am not going to lie.”
He has been rumored to be considered for two more possible Scorsese films, including a biopic of Frank Sinatra -- a prospect DiCaprio says has not yet been decided.
But either way, if the director calls, he is unlikely to say no. “I trust his taste,” he said.
Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Philip Barbara