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November 26th, 2014

Clint Eastwood, Leonardo DiCaprio Interview, J Edgar

Clint Eastwood, Leonardo DiCaprio Interview, J EdgarDuring his lifetime, J. Edgar Hoover would rise to be the most powerful man in America. As head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation for nearly 50 years, he would stop at nothing to protect his country. Through eight presidents and three wars, Hoover waged battle against threats both real and perceived, often bending the rules to keep his countrymen safe. As seen through the eyes of Hoover himself, “J. Edgar” explores the personal and public life and relationships of a man who could distort the truth as easily as he upheld it during a life devoted to his own idea of justice, often swayed by the darker side of power.MoviesOnline sat down with director Clint Eastwood, stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Naomi Watts and Armie Hammer, screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, and producers Brian Grazer and Robert Lorenz at a press conference to talk about the challenges of telling the story of a mythic, iconic figure in American history who was as guarded in his private life as he was in his public one. They discussed how they approached the writing and directing process, what they drew upon to develop their complex characters, and why the life of J. Edgar Hoover inspired powerful cinematic storytelling because what determines a man’s legacy is often what isn’t seen.

Q: For Leonardo and Clint, did you have more than two or three takes on any one scene that you did?

Leonardo DiCaprio:  We actually did a lot of takes on this movie. I never left the set wanting more. That’s for sure. I don’t know. This was a very difficult character for me and a lot of the other actors here, and at times we went and did 8 or 9 or 10 takes on a single day. Clint is very adaptable and has his process and what he does is expect you to plant your feet and speak the truth like James Cagney says. That’s what we tried to do our best on this movie. He was very understanding about the different time periods that we had to shift back and forth from in this movie, all the sort of complex politics and character development, and he gave us everything we could possibly ask for as actors.

Clint Eastwood: What I do is whatever it takes, it takes. Sometimes you see a scene right away and a take looks great so you might print that and you might print a couple more and take elements of all three. It just depends. You’re looking for the highlights. You’re looking for the best elements of the scene, but preferably you’d like to have one good take that would go all the way through. But I’m always trying for it on the first take. That was Don Siegel’s favorite thing. He says I may not get it but I’m always trying for it. I’ve got this reputation for shooting one take which is a wonderful reputation to have but it’s hard to live up to. If I did it, it would be kind of shoddy, I think.

Q: I came to this movie with great expectation wondering what would be the treatment of this iconic and intriguing character. What did you learn about J. Edgar that maybe altered your perception or not?

Leonardo DiCaprio:  I think the screenplay that Clint and I initially responded to by Mr. Dustin Lance Black here was a very fascinating portrait of this man, and I think all of us as actors were very fascinated with these characters that had devoted their life to government service and that meant not having any kind of personal life whatsoever. They were representation of the FBI. That was their church. It’s a hard concept for me to wrap my head around to completely sacrifice any sort of love in your life, to never experience that on a personal level. All three of these characters lived a life of service to their country. What I was fascinated by was his take on entering J. Edgar Hoover’s career during a time of almost a terrorist invasion by Communists, the Red Scare, that sort of paranoia that was infused in our country, and the lawlessness of these bank robbers that were going from state to state and becoming free men when they crossed state lines and how J. Edgar Hoover really transformed the police system in America and created this Federal Bureau that to this day is one of the most feared, respected and revered police forces in the entire world. Of course, this story goes on to his later years where he became, in essence, this political dinosaur who didn’t adapt to the changing of our country. It’s very much about the Kennedy years and the Civil Rights movement and Martin Luther King. The one thing that was prevalent throughout his entire career was his staunch belief that Communism was an evil thing. He wanted to retain the fundamental principles of democracy in our country, but when the Civil Rights movement came along, he saw that as an uprising of the people. He didn’t adapt or change to our country and he stayed in power way too long and he didn’t listen to his own critics. He was a staunch believer in his moral beliefs and his beliefs about what was right for our country and therefore his career ended on a failed note in my opinion. His portrait of this man was a very complex one and a very interesting one and I just loved the research that he did and the take that he had on J. Edgar Hoover’s life because you can’t deny that he wasn’t a patriot but at the same time his tactics were pretty deplorable.

Q: Naomi, your character was a devotee to service and sacrifice. Is that the backstory you gave to Helen Gandy?

NW: Yes, I did. Unlike Hoover’s character, there was very little information about Helen Gandy available. All we really knew was that she worked for him for 50 years. She was not married and she devoted her life to her job and the rest sort of had to be filled in. These were questions of mine in that when I read the script for the first time, I was like why did she do that? This was not common for women of that time, to go into her career saying this is all I want, so she was ahead of her time. That’s an inspiration for all women to see a woman thinking and moving differently from those around her. I liked that it was set up in a way that perhaps she was going to be a love interest but it just wasn’t who Hoover was despite wanting to please his mother. In terms of Helen Gandy, she wanted that career and she just went after it. She loved serving her country and making those sacrifices and [had] unbelievable loyalty, and that’s what I love about the tone of the whole film. It’s a big subject in the film – the loyalty.

Q: For Leo, Naomi and Armie, you did a magnificent job in terms of the whole aging process. In preparation for the older versions of your characters, did you take a closer look at older people and how they move or is it something that just comes naturally as part of the acting?

Leonardo DiCaprio:  Thankfully, Clint set that up for the last two weeks of filming so we got to prepare for that and we got to get our footing in our characters and then come to set. The last few weeks we sat in the make-up chair for 5 or 6 or 7 hours sometimes. I think a lot of us had our own research on how to do that, but there was a lot of prep time for that. The challenge for me was not just the prosthetic work and how to move like an older man would move, but more so how to have 50 years of experience in the workplace and talk to a young Robert F. Kennedy as if he was some political upstart that didn’t know what the hell he was talking about. That was the big challenge for all of us, I think, as actors. But thankfully, Clint creates an environment for all of us to really focus on the acting and the drama and the interaction with the characters. I keep talking about his style of directing but it’s so catered for actors because he has almost like this splinter cell unit of people on set, the bare minimum. It’s like an elite squadron of Marines that are there and they sort of fade away and then that third wall sort of disappears and you start to feel like you’re actually submerged in reality and you’re really there. For doing difficult stuff like that, it’s incredibly helpful as an actor to feel like you’re immersed in that environment.

Q: What does seeing yourself age like that do to your head?

AH: That was one of the helpful things about being in the make-up. It was an odious process of putting it on, but once it was on, if you caught a glimpse of yourself in a reflective surface, it wasn’t you pretending to be older. It was just an old you which was nice. Then, in terms of the mannerisms and all that, having 11, 12 pieces of rubber glued to your face and wearing those suits and feeling that drag, a lot of that informed the movements of the old characters. Then, watching videos on stroke victims and how it affects motor reflexes, how it affects hand movements and gestures and stuff like that, all that stuff is part of it.

Clint Eastwood: Having an 81-year-old director right in front of you is something too.

AH: …who moves better than we all do so that really didn’t help for research.

Clint Eastwood: I think the best example we had was when we did J. Edgar Hoover going in to see the President. We pretty much duplicated both shots so you’d see Leo going in as a young man and then coming at the final one, when he goes into see President Nixon, he goes in and he does the exact same gestures but just as an old man. If you put those two pieces together, you see a dramatic change.

Q: Mr. Eastwood, it’s great that we get to see a new movie of yours every year and now it’s exciting to hear that we might see you in front of the camera again acting. What does it mean to you to have a chance to have an acting role again?

Clint Eastwood: I could say…I could say a lot of things. I could say boredom. Actually it’s kind of based on material. I was just telling somebody a few minutes ago that I’d been trying to retire to the back of the camera for quite a few years. And then, in 1970, when I first started directing, I said you know, if I could pull this off, I can some day just move in back of the camera and stay there. I never was able to pull it off because somebody offered me a role. Once and a while they come up with a grumpy old men thing and they say “Okay, let’s get Eastwood for that.” So, we’ll see. Every once and a while somebody writes a script, but even regardless of what age you are, most of the actors here would all agree that it’s all based upon material and the material has got to spark with you. It may be great material but you think it’s great material for somebody else. Or it’s great material and I’m perfect for it. So, you just have to make that judgment and if you feel in the mood to do it.

Q: For Mr. Black, this is a powerfully written film. Congratulations. Can you talk about the writing process and how you went about researching and developing these characters and what that experience was like?

DLB: This was a tough one to research. I mean, if you read any of the biographies on J. Edgar Hoover, you find that they contradict each other more than they agree. Often times, they’re often told from a political perspective. They feel like they have an agenda often times and so I guess first you start identifying where they really disagree. That’s where you need to start looking first and, for me, that means finding first hand sources first. There aren’t a whole lot of those but there are some and they are mostly people who worked with Hoover in his older years. But you start to get an impression of the man which is important. And then, going to Washington, D.C. and walking in his footsteps, whether that’s the part where his first home is, seeing that he grew up blocks away from the Capital building so in his childhood bedroom you would have seen the dome just blocks away and that starts to inform things. And, at a certain point, you’ve met enough people and you’ve read enough people’s biographies that might pass for firsthand accounts and you start to be able to come to conclusions about who the man was. For me, it was always important to answer that question of why. I know that this is someone who attained a lot of power and he maintained that power for longer than he probably should have, but I was so curious as to why. And so most of my questions were always to answer that and to see because I thought that was how we could make this into an emotional story and that’s how maybe we could learn from it – both in the good that he did and the bad that he became. And, for me, that why was answered with his inability to love and learning a lot about the atmosphere he grew up in and that had to do with interviews with a lot of older gentlemen who were still alive thankfully who could describe what it was like to grow up in that time during the pre-sexual revolution, pre-Stonewall, and the behavior – the rules of what you could say and couldn’t say even in private, even with the person you might be falling in love with, the things you could and couldn’t say, and all of a sudden, that started to really match up with Hoover’s behavior. I really felt like I understood this man. It was a creepy feeling at times because I have hard feelings about so much of what he did and I started to empathize with him and I started to feel for him. You start to question that and you start to worry about that and I always would stop myself and say hey, if you ever want to keep this from happening again, we need to understand him from a human perspective. We need to understand that why so that we can keep it from happening again. That really drove my research.

Q: Brian, there are a lot of controversial things in this movie. How was it to get to the film from the script? What was that process like?

BG: It was an idea that I had. I was just fascinated with the creation of the FBI and how it sustained itself and built, and then I just got together with Lance. We talked about it and we talked about a spine narrative of having the Lindbergh trials be that.

Q: What about some of the controversial issues? Why were you even interested in this? There are a lot of different layers to this movie that, as producers, you could have said maybe we’re just going to concentrate on this one.

BG: We’re interested in complex characters and he’s a complex character, Hoover. I like these types of dramas. I’ve made a few of them and I’m also interested in power structures so it just has elements that fascinate me, and the more you learn about Hoover, the more polarizing you realize he is.

DLB: And the stories are also extreme. I think when Brian and I started talking, there are so many questions because some people say oh, this was a man who was just a hero and he was married to his FBI. Part of that might be true. And then, there are others who say he was just a villain and he ran around in cocktail dresses. I don’t know if that sounds right for this era, and so, for a lot of it, there are extreme beliefs about this man because he did extreme things, both good and bad, but I thought it important that we understand the truth about the man because he was the most powerful man of the 20th century in this country and he shaped the country we live in today. I hope we can continue to further the good that he started but also not make the mistakes that he made.

Q: Clint, can you talk a little bit about the non-linear nature of the storytelling and the way it shifted through the different time periods? Why did you think that was an important or an effective way to tell the story?

Clint Eastwood: I found it interesting. That was Lance’s original impression of the way to put it together and I found it interesting that way. It was an interesting way to go back and forth in time and show him and his present day attitude and how he was when he was younger and just starting out with all kinds of vinegar and ready to roll. I think we stuck pretty well with the formula and it seemed clever to me. By the same token, it helped to go to what everybody is referring to here to justify all these characters. Hoover, I’m sure, felt that he was right in everything he did and even the things that we don’t like about his character. Everybody always feels that they’re right even if they’re wrong and that’s what a whole actor’s career is built around rationalizing your way into whatever character you’re playing. So it was great fun. And Helen Gandy, for instance, I’m just deviating a little bit but I’ll get back to it. When I went to the FBI, she was sort of legendary as far as running the place, and even Robert Mueller who’s the director today says “Oh yeah, Helen Gandy, she ran the place.” She was one of those women that there were quite a few of in those days that would come into a job and after a period of time everybody would come and go and pretty soon everybody was relying on her. We listened to the tapes of her talking to the Congressional Committee after Hoover passed to the whereabouts of all of the so-called files. She stood her ground and you could tell she was somebody who was very confident after 50 years of being on that job. Nobody could burn her down. She just had her story and she stuck to it. Those kind of characters all made it interesting. You get this collage of people that all come from a different place. You ask yourself about Hoover and his relationship with Helen Gandy and his relationship with Tolson, where did it come from? With Tolson, was it just because of lack of trust? Other people come and go and rumors fly in a big organization like that. He had one or two people that he trusted and that was the extent of it probably.

Q: For Mr. Eastwood, throughout your career you’ve come into proximity with people of enormous power, politically and otherwise. How did you take those observations that you’ve made from your own experiences and apply them to Hoover’s story?

Clint Eastwood: Well, with people in high office, the old – you go into the extreme, which is absolute power and absolute power corrupts and what have you, so there’s always a corrupting thing with the 48-year stint as the Director of the Bureau of Investigation. And, because he formed it all and he had the trust of various executives along the way, they just relied on him and nobody could remove him. We approached it from that way – you see that in every…There are so many parallels in society today that you can use, whether it’s the head of a studio or the head of an organization, a major newspaper, a major factory or company, of people who stay too long, maybe, and overstay their usefulness.

Q: Mr. Eastwood, why did you decide to do the movie at this time and how much pressure was exerted from the FBI?

Clint Eastwood: I have great respect for the FBI, and I know that there have been some rumors lately that the FBI was disenchanted because of what we were doing in story, or doing a certain take: that’s not true. Actually the FBI was tremendously enthusiastic about us doing this film. They didn’t read the script, though. They know nothing about it. Their philosophy is “Go ahead and make the story you want to make, and hopefully we’ll love it.” So that’s that.

Q: But you did do a little macho thing on the set. I understand the fight sequence, the tussle – Armie, do you want to talk about that?

AH: Thank you for throwing me under that bus. Yeah, there was a moment on set that was just one of those things where you’re like “Do. Not. Smile.” It was the fight scene that we do in the hotel room, and Clint decided to show us sort of what he wanted, and that involved him and his buddy, Buddy Van Horn, who – [to Clint] You’ve been with him since “Rawhide?” Is that what you said?

Clint Eastwood: My memory is a little short. Actually, yes, I worked with him when I was a contract player at Universal in 1953.

AH: They basically just had a fight right in front of us. Clint comes sort of sauntering up and he’s like “Okay, I was just thinking that this is a very important scene so maybe for the fight you might just want to do something LIKE THIS!” BAM! BAM! These two guys just started wailing on each other, rolling around on the ground, and then Clint gets up in the end, dusts himself off and he goes “Something like that.” “Sure – whatever you say!”

Q: Lance, what was it like working with Clint Eastwood and were there any concerns about how to treat the relationship between Hoover and Tolson?

DLB: I didn’t worry about it. I think if there was a concern, he probably wouldn’t have wanted to do this script. And, for me, we talked a lot. We talked often about where things came from and how things were sourced, and I know Clint was doing as much if not more research than I was to make sure things were as anchored as possible and he knew where things were coming from. And we never really had to talk about the love story. I just think he treated it with respect and I always felt like I was in sure hands.

Q: Obviously, Mr. Black, you were born after Mr. Hoover passed away, whereas Mr. Eastwood, you lived through some of the Hoover era. Did that inform how you approached the material, having experienced some of that time period?

Clint Eastwood: Well, I just kind of had my own impressions growing up with Hoover as a heroic figure in the 40s – actually the 30s, 40s, and 50s and beyond – but this was all prior to the information age so we didn’t know about Hoover except what was usually in the papers, and this was fun, because this was a chance to go into it. Lance had gone and done stuff from autobiographical material and biographies from other people, and it was fun to delve into a character you’ve heard about all your life but you never really knew and try to sort that out. I never knew – we never knew too much about Tolson, Gandy, any of his close confidants, but through researching this movie, we did it. That’s what was fun about making the movie is you get to learn something about people. And then watching the other actors and everybody – we’re all just kind of learning history, or putting our stamp on history, our interpretation of it. Sure, a lot of things probably didn’t happen exactly the way they happen in this film, but they’re pretty close, and Lance had done a great job of researching what time certain events happened in history so they could coincide with other events. Like, for instance, when they’re taping Martin Luther King and they get the news that John F. Kennedy had been shot, it could’ve happened in that particular period of time so that those could be parallel events.

Q: For the actors, how did making this movie and learning this story affect how you think about the idea of privacy which is something that Hoover went about destroying for a lot of people when they met his hands?

Leonardo DiCaprio:  It’s interesting in this day and age to do a film about political espionage and wiretapping. I don’t think that those types of secrets that J. Edgar Hoover was able to obtain and keep for such a long period of time would be possible in today’s world, with the Internet and WikiLeaks. It doesn’t seem like those kinds of secrets can be kept for that long period of time. This is a different day and age, and there were huge, catastrophic events that were going to happen if we didn’t have a federal police system like that investigating a lot of activities that were going on in our country. It still goes on to this day, obviously. I mean, it’s an argument or a topic that people could talk about until they’re blue in the face, whether that type of information being released to the public is a positive or a negative thing. I suppose it depends on the particular event or subject matter. But I don’t think that J. Edgar Hoover would be able to do the same job in today’s era with all this massive distribution of information in a matter of seconds. It was a different era and time.

Clint Eastwood: He sure would be able to store the material easy. Just go around with a little iPad and have everybody in there.

NW: No shredding involved.

Q: For Mr. Eastwood, did you ever meet J. Edgar Hoover at any time in the past?

Clint Eastwood: Did I meet Hoover? No, I never did. I never met him.

Q: Could you talk a little bit about what it feels like at this age just to keep working and do these amazing movies you are doing?

Clint Eastwood: [joking] What was that again?

Leonardo DiCaprio:  [joking] Has aging affected you?

Clint Eastwood: I haven’t heard it. I haven’t…I think aging, so far, has been okay. I think it’s been good. A lot of people regret, because we live in a society that reveres being at the prime of life and everything, but you have certain primes at certain times, and mine happens to be…

Leonardo DiCaprio:  Happens to be right now.

Clint Eastwood: …It happens to be, I think, now. I think I am doing better at certain things right now than I have in the past, and maybe not so good at others.

Leonardo DiCaprio:  From an outsider’s perspective, it’s amazing what he does. If he’s not directing a film, he’s acting in it, or rather he’s composing the music for that film. His commitment to what he does is astounding for all of us to witness. It’s inspiring, actually.

Clint Eastwood: I do believe if one keeps busy it’s very good for a person. In fact, people are always rushing into retirement and we read in Europe that people there are talking about their retirement age and moving it to 67 or something. Well, back when they started retirement funds and everything, the average age was 70 or 60, and then all of a sudden now it’s 80, and so… [to himself, whispering] Oh, I’ve passed it, haven’t I? [Laughter] And so you keep in shape, you keep yourself mentally in shape. And if you keep yourself mentally in shape, chances are physically it will follow suit.

RL: It’s also helpful to have an historical advisor on set at all times.

Q: Clint, how do you think the myth of J. Edgar Hoover informs the character of Dirty Harry?

Clint Eastwood: I don’t think Hoover conforms to Dirty Harry at all. Dirty Harry was a mythical character that came along. Don Siegel and I approached it as an exciting detective story, nothing too much except that. The writer of that, Harry Julian Fink had written it that he was a man concerned with the victim and this came about at a period of time when everybody was obsessed with the rights of the accused. So all of a sudden we come out with a detective story with a lot of violence and stuff but it was also concerning the rights of the victims. Shortly after that, there became all kinds of victims’ rights organizations, so we felt maybe we were ahead of the curve on that. Maybe I don’t see any parallel though because Hoover was an administrator. Even though this congressman in the picture is giving him a hard time and this all happened in real life so he ended up making arrests and stuff, but he was an administrator. He administrated a very large organization so why would he be out on the street making arrests? That’s what he has his agents for. He was just under scrutiny from people because they disliked him or because he was aggressive or whatever.

Q: Armie, why did you need to be talked into doing the role?

AH: To answer your question, I definitely didn’t have to be talked into the movie because look at everybody sitting at this table. How much talking into would you really need unless you were completely thick headed? There was definitely at first I didn’t understand it. I know that for J. Edgar as the character, there’s a lot going on and it’s very layered and I think Leo did an incredible job nailing it, but with Clyde I thought that in order for it to make sense for him to be there and to stick around and to almost take that sort of hot and cold abuse, it had to be a love story. At first when I read it, I didn’t understand the love story. I didn’t understand exactly why Clyde stuck around. I understood why Hoover wanted him around and why it was dangerous and titillating to have him around but it didn’t make sense to me why Clyde would decide to stick around. But after having several great conversations with Fiona Weir who cast the project and several friends of mine, the complexities of their relationship were made more and more clear to me. Then I just started becoming more and more obsessed with it.

Q: Leo, why is the environment important to you and what initiatives are you involved in right now?

Leonardo DiCaprio:  Why is it important to me? It should be important to everybody. I think the environmental movement is the biggest people’s movement in the world. Unfortunately, our governments and corporations haven’t responded accordingly to protect our planet’s natural resources, but ever since I was very young I’ve been fascinated with nature and I actually wanted to be a marine biologist when I was very young. That was a great passion of mine. So I suppose in the off season when I’m not making movies, I became more and more active as an environmentalist trying to be more vocal about issues that I felt were important. I created my foundation as a result of that and my website, and I try to shed some light on some very topical issues right now. A campaign that I’m a part of is to save the last remaining wild tigers throughout Asia. There’s only 3200 left in the wild. There’s more tigers in Texas in cages than there are tigers in the wild. We’re at risk of losing this iconic species for all time. Once it’s stripped of its natural instincts, it’s no longer a tiger but there’s a lot of species like that. The more intriguing thing about it was right now, throughout Asia, a lot of these countries are selling off their jungle and forest rights for palm oil and for paper and pulp companies. So it’s more of a land preservation effort because if you can unify the public behind saving an iconic species like the tiger, like they did with the panda, that means you need to protect their habitat and everything that they hunt. And that means saving massive amounts, thousands of acres for them to be able to roam and breed so it’s more of a land effort. Unfortunately right now there is throughout Asia this stigma that comes from witch doctors that these animals can make you more virile, can make you more of a man. So they crush up their bones and make wine out of them. Unfortunately, the wild tiger is the most expensive and most sought after so there’s a huge effort right now throughout Asia to protect their habitat but also to stop, much like shark finning, which is another thing that I’m campaigning for. We had a great victory with stopping that. We have a ban in California now on shark finning. It’s going to save a lot of these top predators in the ocean. The idea is to try to get people to become obviously more knowledgeable about the issue and try to get corporations and individuals to contribute to these nonprofit organizations.

Q: What’s the website?

Leonardo DiCaprio:  On the tiger issue it’s called Save Tigers Now and World Wildlife Fund I’m working with.

Clint Eastwood: Does that stuff really work?

Leonardo DiCaprio:  No, it’s interesting because actually they proved that it has as much effect as dog bone would, but for some reason tiger bone wine is a delicacy. Much like rhinos, it’s basically hair, but they’re poaching. Vietnamese Rhinoceros Diet is recently the last one, but they’re poaching these animals just like ivory. They feel it has medicinal qualities unfortunately. That kind of mentality needs to be changed if these animals are going to survive.

Clint Eastwood: You must have been shocked when they killed all those animals at that zoo. (referring to the slaughter of bears, lions, tigers, wolves and monkeys that ran amok when owner Terry Thompson, 62, flung open the enclosures at his Muskingum County animal farm near the town of Zanesville and then shot himself.)

Leonardo DiCaprio:  Oh yeah, that was horrible.

Clint Eastwood: It’s just when you read some of the decisions that people make about what to do about a problem like that, you’d think in modern days there’d be ways in which you could quarantine areas and then go out and collect them back, rather than go out and just have a shooting day. It makes you kind of sick and you kind of think everybody wants to be trigger happy and all that stuff and you get a chance to exercise the testosterone, but it’s not a pleasant thing. Those animals could have all been utilized in some nice place someplace. They didn’t have to do all that.

Q: Leo, why are you drawn to characters involved in social/historical stories?

Leonardo DiCaprio:  I think Lance put it best when he said, “Look, if we can better understand these people and their motivations and how this ambition manifested itself to their politics, we can learn from them. We can learn from history.” To me, you couldn’t write a character like J. Edgar Hoover and have it be believable. I mean, he was a crock pot of eccentricities. We couldn’t even fit all his eccentricities into this movie. We could go on and on. The fact that this man was, like he said, if not the most powerful man in the last century, one of the most in our country and he lived with his mother until he was 40 years old. He listened to his mother for political advice. The more I dug deep, you understand the history and the child and what motivated these people at a very early age. She wanted the Hoover name to rise to great glory in Washington so he was this incredibly ambitious young genius that really transformed our country and created this federal bureau that to this day is revered and feared. Yet he was a mama’s boy. He was incredibly repressed emotionally. His only outlet was his job. He wasn’t allowed to have any kind of personal relationships, or he felt that. No matter what his sexual orientation was, he was devoted to his job and power was paramount to him and holding onto that power at all costs was the most important thing in his life. He should’ve retired much sooner than he did and many presidents tried to oust him later on in his career as depicted with Nixon as well. That was everything to him and he didn’t adapt or change to our country and that is one of the most important things that a political leader can do. For me as an actor, I just loved researching this stuff. We got to take a trip to Washington and I got to meet people who knew him and really understand and capture this guy to the best of my abilities. That’s half the fun of making a movie for me.

Q: Was this an education for you?

Leonardo DiCaprio:  Yeah, it is. It’s an incredible education. It was like I did a college course on J. Edgar Hoover but not knowing and understanding the history and reading the books, but understanding what motivated this man was the most fascinating part of the research.

Q: Do you worry that playing such an unsympathetic role will hurt your career?

Leonardo DiCaprio:  No, not at all. I don’t have to sympathize or empathize with a human being in order to be able to portray them. I mean, some of the greatest roles that actors have been able to play haven’t been the most endearing on screen.

Clint Eastwood: Historically, actors have been made very famous for roles that were something that was far – – Richard Widmark comes to mind (playing Tommy Udo in “Kiss of Death”) or something like that, where you do some famous role and everybody imitates you for the rest of your life. But obviously it’s much more fun to play something you’re not than it is to play something you are.

“J. Edgar” opens in theaters on November 9th.




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