For his riveting portrayal of J. Edgar Hoover, DiCaprio has been nominated for Best Actor at the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Awards, and a favorite to earn the same honor at the Oscars.
A towering figure in American history, J. Edgar Hoover devoted himself to public service, essentially putting aside any personal relationships he might have wanted to have for what he considered to be the greater good. As one who served to gain authority as well as the public’s adoration, he saw his opportunity to achieve both by positioning himself as a supreme crime-fighting figure, a hero of the populace.
“Hoover was incredibly ambitious as a young man,” says DiCaprio, who took on the character that would take him from a man in his twenties to one at 77. “He was highly motivated to succeed in Washington, primarily due to his mother’s expectations of him. His father had failed to become a major political figure, and Annie Hoover wanted her son to carry the family name to great fame and fortune, with little or no regard for what else Edgar might have needed for himself. He became this stoic, bulldog enforcer who had to keep his personal life very personal. He became all about secrets.”
With so little known about the man’s inner life, DiCaprio did vast amounts of research in order to create a fully realized Hoover on screen. “It was a terrific challenge to breathe life into this person, because he was such a mystery,” he says. “I did find that he was very manipulative and very charming; he could charm anyone in the room but at the same time intimidate them. He liked the spotlight, but he concentrated so much on work that it defined much of who he was, his morals, the decisions that he made on really every level. I hesitate to use the word priest because J. Edgar Hoover was no priest, but he certainly looked at the FBI as his church.”
“Leo is a total professional, he comes completely prepared,” Eastwood says. “From the start, I could see he’d done all of his homework, thought a lot about what he had to do, and was interested in my take on things. I was really impressed by his focus, and I think it translated into the character.”
The actor was thrilled to be working with the legendary director. “Clint’s process is impeccable because he trusts his own instincts, he trusts his gut. There’s a beautiful simplicity to the way he works; he has one vision, which made it easier to do my job. He’s really like a corner man. It was like going into the ring and having your coach there, backing you up. And I think that confidence and support are evident on the screen.”
DiCaprio concludes, “I think what allowed me to really get a real sense of Hoover I was portraying was that, at its heart, ours is a story about the person inside. Lots of stories have been told about the man, but I feel that his relationships with [close friend] Clyde Tolson, [secretary] Helen Gandy and his mother really forged who he was for the entirety of his life and career. That was what compelled me to go to work every day, and it’s what I hope will intrigue people as they watch the movie.”
Opening across the Philippines on Jan. 25, “J. Edgar” is distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.