Leonardo DiCaprio reveals he almost met his idol River Phoenix the night he died at age 23: 'It was existential... I kind of froze'
Leonardo DiCaprio looked up to River Phoenix when he was starting out as an actor in the late Eighties and early Nineties.
And during a Hollywood party in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles in 1993, the Oscar-winning actor almost met Phoenix, who was best known for his movies Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade and My Own Private Idaho.
DiCaprio, who is promoting Once Upon A Time In Hollywood, told the Summer Issue of Esquire magazine that he caught a glimpse of the acclaimed actor, but then was crestfallen when he lost him in the crowd. Phoenix later died that same night at The Viper Room in West Hollywood at the age 23.
He was a fan: Leonardo DiCaprio looked up to River Phoenix. And during a Hollywood party in the Los Feliz section of Los Angeles in 1993, the Oscar-winning actor almost met the actor,he told Esquire. Seen on Tuesday in Cannes
Strange fate: DiCaprio caught a glimpse of the acclaimed actor, but then was crestfallen when he lost him in the crowd. Phoenix later died that same night at The Viper Room in West Hollywood at the age 23. Seen in Sneakers
River was considered the next big talent, the new James Dean.
'I grew up revering River Phoenix as the great actor of my generation, and all I ever wanted was to have just an opportunity to shake his hand,' began the Titanic star.
'And one night, at a party in Silver Lake, I saw him walk up a flight of stairs.
'It was almost like something you would see in Vertigo, because I saw there was something in his face, and I'd never met him—always wanted to meet him, always wanted to just have an encounter with him—and he was walking toward me and I kind of froze.
An early hit: Harrison Ford and Phoenix, middle, in The Mosquito Coast - 1986
'And then the crowd got in my way, and I looked back and he was gone. I walked back up the stairs and back down, and I was like, "Where did he go?" And he was . . . on his way to the Viper Room.
'And it was almost as if—I don't know how to describe it, but it's this existential thing where I felt like . . . he disappeared in front of my very eyes, and the tragedy that I felt afterward of having lost this great influence for me and all of my friends.
'The actor we all talked about. Just to be able to have that, always wanting to just—and I remember extending my hand out, and then . . .
They clicked: With costar Martha Plimpton in Running On Empty in 1988
A big hit: The actor in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade - 1989
Phoenix seen here with Keanu Reeves in 1991's My Own Private Idaho
'Two people came in front and then I looked back, and then he wasn't there…I actually flew later to New Orleans to meet about Interview with the Vampire to play the part Christian Slater ended up playing. [Phoenix had been cast in the role and Pitt was one of the stars.]'
DiCaprio also talked Luke Perry, who died in March from a stroke. Luke had a role in Once Upon A Time as well.
'I remember my friend Vinny, who is in the film as well, we walked in and we both had this butterfly moment of like, "Oh my God, that's Luke Perry over there!"
Brad Pitt - who is also in Once Upon A Time, added, 'That's Luke f***ing Perry!' We were like kids in the candy shop because I remember going to the studios and [Beverly Hills, 90210] was going on and he was that icon of coolness for us, as teenagers.
He had it all: River was good looking and had acting chops. Seen in The Thing Called Love with Samantha Mathis in 1993
'It was this strange burst of excitement that I had, to be able to act with him. Man, he was so incredibly humble and amazing and absolutely committed. He couldn't have been a more friendly, wonderful guy to spend time with. I got to sit down and have some wonderful conversations with him. It was really special.'
Pitt also had an old Hollywood story.
The ex of Jennifer Aniston said he got drunk and high in his early days with Brandon Lee, who also died at a young age.
He had a lot to say too: Brad Pitt is pictured here at Cannes on Tuesday
His pal: The pinup boy partied with Brandon Lee before he died on the set of The Crow, 1994
His dad was massive: Brandon's father was film star Bruce Lee, seen in the 1960s
'I remember back in the early days I hung out with Brandon Lee. He drove a hearse and lived in Echo Park.
'We went out one night and everyone else had peeled off, and we ended up back at his place and it was like six in the morning.
'A real, you know, drunk and stony night, and he proceeded that night to tell me how he thought he was going to die young like his dad.
'And I just chalked it up to, you know, stony 6:00 a.m. talk. And then he got The Crow the next year.'
Sad loss: DiCaprio also talked Perry. 'I remember my friend Vinny, who is in the film as well, we walked in and we both had this butterfly moment of like, "Oh my God, that's Luke Perry over there!" Seen in February. He died in March
Mr Cool of the day: Pitt also talked about working with legend Reynolds on Once Upon. 'I'll tell you one of the greatest moments I've had in these however many years we've been at it in this town: getting to spend two days with Burt Reynolds on this film… It was a f***ing pleasure.' Seen with Loni Anderson in 1993
Pitt also talked about working with legend Burt Reynolds on Once Upon.
'I'll tell you one of the greatest moments I've had in these however many years we've been at it in this town: getting to spend two days with Burt Reynolds on this film… It was a f***ing pleasure,' sid Pitt.
Once Upon director Quentin Tarantino said, 'I went to the memorial, and three days earlier I had finished cutting together Luke's last scene.'
Trio: They are starring one of this year's most anticipated movies, Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. And for the summer issue of Esquire magazine Pitt and DiCaprio sat down with their director to talk about how the movie came together
The Esquire interview was the first sit down with Leonardo, Brad and Quentin since the movie wrapped production.
Pitt said he wanted to do the movie, which is set in the 1960s, because of the era. 'Certainly the period is great fun,' began the ex-husband of Angelina Jolie.
'QT is the last purveyor of cool. If you land in one of his films, you know you're in great hands.
Making history: The trio also commented on the sad loss of two of the film's stars: Luke Perry, who died in March after suffering a stroke, and Burt Reynolds, who passed away in September after having a cardiopulmonary arrest
'Quentin gives you these speeches, the kind that you wished you had said on the drive home, that you think of a day later.
'I felt the script was an evolution of Quentin's voice. I mean, we know Quentin Tarantino as an auteur sending film in a singular, original direction.
'But I found this an evolution— and an amalgamation of what we loved about the eight films… And doing this with Leo was really cool and a rare opportunity.'
The father-of-six added, 'And then there was just the whole thing, where we all grew up with the lore of the lead actor and his stuntman. That relationship and craft.
Fun times: The Esquire interview was Leonardo, Brad and Quentin's first sit-down interview since wrapping production of Once Upon A Time in Hollywood. Pitt said he wanted to do the movie, which is set in the 1960s, because of the era. 'Certainly the period is great fun,' began the ex-husband of Angelina Jolie
'I mean, there are epic stories of these duos: Burt Reynolds had Hal Needham. Steve McQueen had Bud Ekins. Kurt Russell had his guy. Harrison Ford had his. These guys were partners for decades. And it's something that is not the same in our generation, as the pieces became more movable.'
Leonardo pretty much echoed what Brad said.
He said he signed on to do OUATIH because he wanted 'the chance to work with Mr. Tarantino.'
The cover boy added, 'And certainly this time period was fascinating. It was this homage to Hollywood. I don't think there's been a Hollywood film like this—and by that I mean a film set in Hollywood and about Hollywood—which gets its nails dirty, getting into the everyday life of an actor and his stunt double.'
A game: Leonardo pretty much echoed what Brad said. He said he signed on to do OUATIH because he wanted 'the chance to work with Mr. Tarantino.' The cover boy added, 'And certainly this time period was fascinating. It was this homage to Hollywood'
The Titanic star then said, '1969 is a seminal time in cinema history as well as in the world.
'Rick and Cliff, they're part of the old guard in Hollywood, but they're also trying to navigate this new world of the hippie revolution and free love.
'I loved the idea of taking on this struggling actor who is trying to find his footing in this new world. And his pal who he's been with through all these wars in Hollywood.
'Quentin so brilliantly combines what's going on in the changing of America but also through these characters' eyes how Hollywood was changing.
Mr Cool: Pitt plays a stunt man who has a close bond with Leo's movie star
'It was captivating when I first read it. The characters had the imprint of Quentin's immense knowledge of cinema history. You are in awe of the detail, and you know it's f***ing authentic.'
Tarantino also commented on what makes this movie special to him.
'This film is the closest thing I've done to Pulp Fiction…[It's] probably my most personal. I think of it like my memory piece. Alfonso [Cuarón] had Roma and Mexico City, 1970. I had L. A. and 1969. This is me. This is the year that formed me. I was six years old then. This is my world. And this is my love letter to L.A.'
DiCaprio, who has worked with some of the great directors like Martin Scorsese and Steven Speilberg, said Quentin's sets are 'so magnetic.'
A movie star playing a movie star: Leo is hot in Western movies but must cope with changing times in the late 1960s
He added, 'You don't walk onto sets like this anymore, where everyone has respect for the process.
'There's this celebration of a way of making movies that has slowly become an antiquity in this industry.
'Quentin puts a tremendous amount of thought into making these characters come to life, making the authenticity of the period come to life. There's also this freedom—an energy—we feel on his set.
The hunk of Hollywood: His bad boy of cinema has an ego problem
'It's become a rarity to have a process the way he has it. And that is: taking the time to f***ing Get. It. Right. At all costs.'
Brad and Leo, who are two of the biggest male film stars in the world, are not only box office gold, they're also friends.
DiCaprio said he admired working with the icon.
'In a weird way, when we were doing the movie, my relationship with Brad clicked,' said Leonardo, who managed to garner high respect in Hollywood (and even an Oscar) even though his reputation as a modelizer is intense.
Hot stuff: Margot Robbie is seen here in character as Hollywood beauty Sharon Tate
'It was very early on where he improvised a line and it changed everything,' added the Revenant actor.
'In the scene, as it was written, I'm coming to set hungover. And I am basically getting my fate handed to me, discovering what my future is going to be in this industry. And I'm really down.
'And in the scene, Brad ad-libs; he just comes out with this line, he looks at me and says, "Hey, you're Rick f***ing Dalton. Don't you forget that."'
Brad explained to Esquire where that line came from.
'True story, this was probably early nineties. I was on set and I was whining about something and lamenting something. I was pretty low,' the star - who made A River Runs Through It and Legends Of The Fall in the early 90s - begins.
All there: (L-R) Leonardo, Quentin, Daniela Pick, David Heyman, Shannon McIntosh, Margot Robbie and Brad attend the screening of Once Upon A Time In Hollywood during the 72nd annual Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday in Cannes
'And this guy said to me, he was basically saying, "Get your head up, hold your head up. Quit your whining. You're Brad f***ing Pitt. I would like to be Brad f***ing Pitt." It did me a favor. I needed to hear it. That day, I flashed on that. The way Quentin's scene was constructed, it reminded me of it.'
DiCaprio also says he really appreciated everything that has worked for him.
'My attitude is the same as when I started. When I talk to these two guys [BP and QT], it's like, we know we were given that one shot and we do not want to disrespect that opportunity, which is why we're just trying the damn best we can to make the best things we can.
Good pals now: Robbie, DiCaprio and Pitt side by side on the carpet
So much madness: Brad, Leo and Quentin walked with Margot and there appeared to be several bodyguards behind them
'Because we understand that it is fleeting. Tastes change; culture changes. And I feel very blessed to have gotten that ticket to be able to do movies. So I feel very connected to that fifteen-year-old kid who got his first movie. And that hasn't changed.'
The Summer Issue of Esquire is on stands June 4.
The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday. It is opening exactly 25-years to the date of Tarantino's Pulp Fiction Cannes premiere.
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