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Leonardo DiCaprio’s Titanic Follow-up Perfectly Mocked His Own Image

Leonardo DiCaprio plays a very exaggerated version of an out of control young actor in Woody Allen’s black and white 1998 comedy Celebrity.

After the unrivaled success of James Cameron’s romantic epic titanica in 1997, leading man Leonardo Dicaprio followed up the blockbuster with a clever supporting role in a Woody Allen movie to mock his massive fame. DiCaprio had been a rising star, emerging from indie teen actor in dramas like What’s Eating Gilbert Grape to heartthrob in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. But it was his swoon-worthy role as Jack Dawson that kickstarted what the press nicknamed “Leo-Mania.” DiCaprio was everywhere, with fans, critics, and journalists keeping a constant eye on the star. This made his titanica follow-up an even more surprising choice.


Grappling with such intense fame and fandom, perhaps akin to someone like Timothee Chalamet today, the actor chose to follow up his iconic titanica role in the most polar opposite of ways; a small but showy performance in a black and white Woody Allen comedy aptly called celebrities. Co-starring Kenneth Branagh, Wynona Ryder, Hank Azaria, Charlize Theron, and Sam Rockwell, the 1998 film pokes fun at a desperate screenplay writer and his relationship with different fictional actors and actresses. Branagh, who stars as the film’s hapless writer protagonist, attempts to get DiCaprio’s character to agree to be in his movie from him. Though DiCaprio appears for only 10 minutes of screentime, critics and fans of this movie seem to agree he stole the show.

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DiCaprio, known for his multiple movie deaths, plays Brandon Darrow, a spoiled and emotional young actor who beats up his girlfriend, trashes hotel rooms, travels with an entourage, does copious amounts of drugs, and lives in pure over-the-top excess . The Oscar-winner and environmental activist has said he has refrained from drugs and alcohol and has managed to stay scandal-free when it comes to his personal life – even amid his younger days. Despite that true image, it didn’t stop others from putting him into the same category as other out-of-control male idols. In celebrities, DiCaprio gets to not only show off his acting chops but even address people’s pigeonholing of him through this performance. The role of Brandon Darrow allowed him to let off some steam while showing how self-aware he was at the time and that people’s expectations of him simply weren’t true.

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While the Alexandre Dumas adaptation The Man in The Iron Mask was technically his first post-titanica release, DiCaprio had actually completed his dual roles before titanica came out, making celebrities his first true post-Jack Dawson appearance. Audiences tend to remember that film but completely missed out on celebrities, which was both a critical and commercial disappointment, grossing nearly half of its 12-million-dollar budget. With some critics like Roger Ebert believing it was a retread of Allen’s previous work – the film, for the most part, faded into obscurity. As far as creative and self-expressive choices go, it stands as evidence that DiCaprio was not going to coast on fame or good looks and was instead committed to constantly challenging himself.

DiCaprio has shifted significantly from the slender, young heartthrob of the late-1990s, appearing in gritty crime dramas like The Departed and the highly-anticipated Killers of the Flower Moon adaptation. He has proven time and time again that he is one of his generation’s most versatile actors and consistent box office draws. Though he has not done anything remotely as intimate or small as celebrities, he has still continued to poke fun at his own image in comedy sketches and roles. It’s tough to imagine Leonardo Dicaprio taking on a small role in a Woody Allen comedy today, but at the time, despite the lukewarm reception, something small and fun was the perfect choice to follow something as significant as titanica.

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