"If somebody says to you, 'You weren't at all like yourself,' that's the greatest compliment you can pay an actor," said Dench of DiCaprio. "If you get to play a monster or a really unpleasant person, ooooh, lovely. [DiCaprio's] concentration is paramount. You kind of feel that he's got the whole thing in the palm of his hand that he knows exactly how the scene should be played and that he's totally committed to it.... But then suddenly there's a wonderful outbreak of relaxation and a laugh and a joke."
When DiCaprio expressed interest in the role, a typically succinct Eastwood said his reaction was, "That's a good idea. That'd be great for him. He's a smart guy. He saw that it was going to be an interesting character, and then we went about it."
"J. Edgar" is the kind of movie — a $35-million adult drama — that doesn't get made by a studio today without the help of a bona fide star. DiCaprio, a three-time Oscar nominee, dramatically cut his fee for the part and is the keystone of the studio's awards season push.
DiCaprio's first major film role was as a rebellious teen in 1993's "This Boy's Life." "My first movie was with De Niro," he said. "I was 15 and I said, 'Oh, my God, he's not just saying the lines, he's improvising and he must have thought about this a lot. To see the preparation and the specificity, but also the ability to react to other people, the ability to discover stuff in the moment…"