Leonardo DiCaprio ventures into the deep recesses of our minds, inside dreams in Inception, director Christopher Nolan's (Dark Night, Memento) highly-anticipated sci-fi epic. The actor also reveals a few secrets about his latest project.
Like Memento, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, Nolan and Emma Thomas (his wife and partner-in-creativity) have come up with Inception, another brilliantly-conceived and visually-dazzling motion picture -- very little of its special effects were created on computers; instead gimbles, sets and models were built to give the film its incredible sense of reality).
For the past two years, Inception has been filmed under a veil of secrecy and its storyline has been as heavily-guarded as the launch codes for America's weapons of mass destruction (and we aren't talking Tom Cruise's Knight and Day or the ridiculous The Grown Ups.) Even as Inception opens in theaters across North America, the film's actors – Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Tom Hardy, Cillian Murphy, Tom Berenger, Dileep Rao, DiCaprio and Michael Caine – have been politely warned to keep the plot under wraps. “I understand the need to keep the secret of what the film is about,” admits DiCaprio, who made his film debuts in Critters 3 followed by a co-starring role with Robert De Niro in This Boy's Life. “There’s nothing better than going to a movie and knowing absolutely nothing about it.”
This entertainment journalist agrees with DiCaprio – who spoke to a select group of the media earlier this month in Los Angeles -- and I will certainly honor Nolan's wish to keep my lips tightly sealed about the plot of Inception. Like Memento, it is packed with so many twists, turns and cerebral mind puzzles, you'll definitely want to watch it over and over again. But, to give to you some clue to what kind of sensational motion picture experience you're in for, what follows is the studio's official explanation about the dream world of Christopher Nolan's Inception.
Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 'Inception'
In Inception, Dom Cobb (DiCaprio) is a skilled thief, the absolute best in the dangerous art of extraction: stealing valuable secrets from deep within the subconscious during the dream state when the mind is at its most vulnerable. Cobb’s rare ability has made him a coveted player in this treacherous new world of corporate espionage, but it has also made him an international fugitive and cost him everything he has ever loved. Now Cobb is being offered a chance at redemption. One last job could give him his life back but only if he can accomplish the impossible — inception.
Instead of the perfect heist, Cobb and his team of specialists have to pull off the reverse; their task is not to steal an idea but to plant one. If they succeed, it could be the perfect crime.But no amount of careful planning or expertise can prepare the team for the dangerous enemy that seems to predict their every move. An enemy that only Cobb could have seen coming. A wealthy industrialist played by Watanabe hires Cobb to plant information in the mind of the heir ( Murphy) to a billion dollar conglomerate. But entering dreamland is tricky and Cobb is plagued by his own bad dreams including the memories of his late wife Cottiard) who is now haunting him. In Inception, the mind is the scene of the crime.
I spoke to DiCaprio before the release of Inception:
Director Christopher Nolan and Leonardo DiCaprio in 'Inception'
Do you talk a lot in your sleep? “There’s nothing to talk about in my sleep because I never remember my dreams. The truth is I’m not a big dreamer and I never have been. I remember fragments of my dreams, which is a shame. I wish I could remember much more, but I do remember dreaming about acting as a child. Then there are gaps in what I remember."
Did you do a lot of of research about dreams for your role? “For this movie, I had to read Freud’s book on "The Analysis of Dreams." I really did my research. But then I realized that this was our director Chris Nolan’s dream world. It has it’s own structure and set of rules.”
Joseph Gordon-Levitte in 'Inception'
So, did you and Chris spend a lot of time talking about the rules of his dream world? “Yes, very much so. I sat down with Chris Nolan for two months, every other day, to talk about the rules of this dream world. The interesting thing is I don’t think there’s a specific science you can put on all this dream psychology. It’s up to the individual. It’s cool how your dreams are made up of so many things – surprises during your day, emotions and thoughts we haven’t really had time to process.”
What were some of the surprising things you learned about the way human beings dream? “I was surprised by quite a few things. I learned that when we sleep, our mind randomly fires off different stories. Surreal stories And, when we wake up, we really should pay attention to what we were dreaming about because it can help you figure out your life.”
Leonardo DiCaprio and Michael Caine in 'Inception'
There's no comic book heroes, it's not based on a cult novel, it's not a sequel or remake – Inception is a very deep, thrilling, intense movie that requires movie-goes to actually think. So, how in the world did a film like Inception get made – especially for summer time release? "One name, Christopher Nolan. There are very few directors who would pitch to a studio that he wanted to do a multi-layered, almost existential, high drama, surreal film that is locked in a man’s mind. Very few directors who would have the opportunity to do that movie,”
There's been a real top secret, dark veil of secrecy surrounding Inception. I've heard stories that security guards would wait while you read the script to the screenplay could only be read on a certain stock of paper that you couldn't read without a certain type of lighting bulb. Even now, a few weeks before it is set is open, you still are not allowed to say much about the film. How do you feel about all the secrecy? “I understand the need to keep the secret of what the film is about. There’s nothing better than going to a movie and knowing absolutely nothing about it.”
The Inception heist crew in 'Inception'
What can you say about it? What is Inception all about? “I can finally say it’s about four different states of the human subconscious that represent dreams and how each one affects the others. I can also tell you we went to six different locations around the world to film this movie – from the snow-capped mountains of Canada (Calgary) to a van or elevator shaft in Paris or London.”
You must have had several incredible and unforgettable times filming Inception everywhere from Calgary and London to Morocco and Paris? Although, some people said Morocco was not a completely easy shoot to do. If that's true, why so? “They were great experiences for me, as an actor, but I think the sequence in Morocco was pretty tough. I had to run through a crowd of people, and I felt like I was in the middle of a pinball game. I was bouncing off one Moroccan to another Moroccan. That was a little bit tough. At the end of the day, we pulled off a lot in a day’s work. And I didn’t get hurt because a very professional team took care of me.”
Chris Nolan, Leonardo DiCaprio and Gillian Murphy in 'Inception'
I know that you can't talk a whole lot about your character Cobb, but what are some of the things you can reveal? “He goes on a cathartic journey and creates a scenario in this movie that almost becomes a giant therapy session at the end of the day. Cobb creates these different levels of dreams that represents a psychological analysis of this man I play. As the dreams progress, he gets closer to the truth and what he needs to understand about himself.”
Is it true that you are not a big fan of science fiction movies? If not, why did you decide to do Inception? “I have a hard time with sci-fi. I have an aversion to some of it, because it’s hard to emotionally invest in worlds that are too far from what I know. But Chris’s world was visually and deeply rooted in what I’ve seen before. His world is tactile. So this wasn’t such a leap of faith for me. I was emotionally rooted with the character. I tried to take everything in as a way to make this character Cobb believable and real.”
Well, with Inception and Shutter Island, another sci-fi film you just did with Marty (Martin Scorsese), you've done two in a row. Are you making a decision to make movies with darker tones? Does this reflect where you are these days – in an emotionally darker mood? “No, not at all. I guess a lot of films I've done have been more serious in tone this past year. I don’t try to find dark films to do, I don't deny that. It's just the roles that have come my way, with the directors that I've wanted to work with, that have just have happened to be a little darker than usual, that's all.”
Leonardo DiCaprio in 'Inception'
Do you have a system or criteria you use in how you choose the roles you want to do?“ I don’t really question why I do movies. When I read a script and feel I can be of service to the role then I’ll do it if it interests me. I also need to make sure that the director can pull it off. But after that, I don’t question why I do what I do.”
But you like to do roles that challenge you, I would assume? “Of course, because there’s nothing more boring than showing up on a set and saying a line, knowing your character means exactly what he’s saying.”
Do you feel as if you gotten any better with the way you deal with stardom, the paparazzi, when they quiz you about who you are dating (Bar Raffeal is rumored to be his latest love interest) and that whole Hollywood fame game? “Oh yeah, for a while now. You will never hear me complain about stardom. I’m a very privileged person. I grew up in Los Angeles and many of my friends are actors. And they don’t even have close to the choices I have in life. I would make myself nauseous if I complained about anything. My theory is if you don’t like stardom and all the attention that goes along with it then get out of this business.”
Leonardo DiCaprio in 'Inception'
The word around Hollywood is that you'll be playing the infamous FBI chief soon. Are you going to do the J. Edgar Hoover bio-pic with director Clint Eastwood after all? “I’m talking to Clint about playing J. Edgar Hoover, who had his hand in some of the most scandalous events in American history – everything from Martin Luther King, Jr. to John F. Kennedy. It’s going to be about the secret life of Hoover. After all the time, we finally get to see his personal life, too.”
Does that mean we might see you in a bra, panty hose and a dress in some scenes? “Will I wear a dress? We haven’t done the fitting for those yet. (laughs) But, it will span his life and decades he was the FBI, so anything is possible.”
Leonardo DiCaprio in 'Inception'
Inception opens in theaters and IMAX throughout North America on July 16, 2010. Check local listings for locations and showtimes.