And when he finally did win one, for Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's The Revenant, all anyone really talked about was how much it sucked for DiCaprio. Not that it was Inarritu's follow up to winning Best Picture and Best Director the same year, and that he won Best Director again; not that it was a triumph of filmmaking and naturalistic lighting techniques; not even really what the plot was about (Tom Hardy ... walks places?). In another world, we're celebrating The Revenant because it's one of the best new Western-esque films in an age where most people look at Westerns as a genre that John Wayne had buried with him.
20th Century FoxA grave that Leonardo DiCaprio literally crawled out of.
No, the most important thing about the film was that an actor suffered. A movie that won multiple Oscars and had an amazing pedigree was still boiled down in public consciousness to the weird decision of an actor to get award-winning frostbite. And all of this is bad, because ...
We're Not Afraid To Give An Oscar To A Corpse
If you think that the Academy won't reward a dead person with an Oscar, think again. There's a whole list of people who've been given posthumous Oscars. And we already lionize dead actors, particularly ones like James Dean (again, a noted Method actor who tended to take things a little too far) who died young and passionate. That's why Megan Fox has a tattoo of Marilyn Monroe, for fuck's sake. We're obsessed with the idea that dying fast and young means having some kind of gift that the over-40s will never be able to grasp.
That's why people weirdly conflate the death of Heath Ledger with his crazy Method immersion into the role of the Joker, even though he'd moved on by then. We just looove the idea of actors dying for their art. And there'll probably be some complaints about the ghoulishness of showing a movie in which someone dies, but if it's for the almighty Art, people will cave. They did it for multiple volumes of Faces Of Death, you think they won't do it for a truly transcendent performance? That's why we need to second-guess any mindless devotion to method acting. It can really only end one way: death.
Warner Bros.It wasn't that Ledger was an extremely talented actor with some very intense personal problems. Nope. He just Joker'd too hard. That must be it.
Combine the weird hero-worship of Hollywood, an ever-increasing demand for actors to risk their lives and health for roles, and an industry that considers tragedy to be Oscar-bait, and you've got a sure-fire recipe for someone getting mortally wounded while in the pursuit of critical acclaim. But hey, at least they'll have "Best Actor" on a resume that they'll never be able to use again.
Nathan Kamal lives in Oregon and writes there. He co-founded Asymmetry Fiction for all your fiction needs.
For more check out The 5 Craziest Ways Famous Actors Got Into Character and 7 Famous Actors Who Lost Their Minds Getting Into Character.
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