The per-movie price for Titantic's wonder boy has skyrocketed, but many Oscar watchers are still wondering...
It’s hard to imagine film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert being in agreement with legions of limp, lovesick Leonardo DiCaprio fans, but on their Feb. 14 telecast the duo found common ground with girls around the globe. In a segment discussing this year’s Academy Award nominees, Siskel emphatically declared ”DiCaprio was robbed” of Oscar recognition for his role in Titanic, and Ebert chimed in, ”What are they thinking?!”
Although Hollywood didn’t expect DiCaprio, 23, to clinch a nomination (he had been passed over for warm-up awards like the Golden Globes), his fans did, so his Oscar no-show came as a shocking, berg-like blow to DiCapriettes everywhere. ”It completely flabbergasted me,” says Neera Shukla, 20, a Toronto-based college student and president of a Leonardo fan club. ”Titanic brought tears to my eyes, and he was a big part of that!! I’m having difficulty believing he was just overlooked.”
Given that five weeks into the movie’s run, Twentieth Century Fox estimated that 7 percent of all U.S. teenage girls had seen the movie twice, it’s safe to say that the teen Titaniacs were, like, really bummed. ”I was upset he wasn’t nominated. Extremely!” says Kim Cortes, 16, a student at New York’s School of American Ballet whose bedroom is plastered with Leo posters and who’s seen the ship go down four times. Adds her Titanic-crazed classmate Jessica Kusak, 16: ”They went for older men, like Peter Fonda.” Even Celine Dion opined on the fracas: ”To me, he’s James Dean. He’s wonderful — I can’t believe he’s not nominated!”
Some outraged Leo lovers railed against the abject cruelty of it all. More than 200 DiCaprio fans have E-mailed or phoned the Academy’s L.A. headquarters demanding a recount. ”They’re asking if anything can be done to get Leonardo nominated before the awards show,” says a bemused Academy spokesman. ”The calls did not just come from teenagers. One older woman called and said the whole state of Florida was upset.”
But what if a nod for DiCaprio had been among Titanic‘s record-tying nominations? Would Hollywood be expressing its surprise? Though he’s perceived as a fiercely talented actor and has been praised for his performances in movies like 1993’s This Boy’s Life, DiCaprio’s turn in Titanic is not considered to be his personal best. ”I watched Siskel and Ebert, and I couldn’t believe they went on and on and on…,” says one agent, who asks to remain anonymous. ”I’m sure Leo’s prouder of his performance in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape [for which he received an Oscar nod in 1994] or Marvin’s Room than Titanic. When everything’s said and done, he was in a special-effects-laden movie.” But if the movie’s techno appeal was the obstacle, why were costars Kate Winslet and Gloria Stuart still singled out? Explains Peter Rainer, chairman of the National Society of Film Critics: ”The fact that Winslet and Stuart were nominated shows that the actress category was weaker. There were more obvious choices for Best Actor. And there were even better performances than his, such as Al Pacino’s in Donnie Brasco, that were overlooked.”