To get up to speed for her piece about formidable Best Actor contender Leonardo DiCaprio, Hollywood Reporter columnist Anne Thompson persuaded Warner Bros. to let her see Blood Diamond, the hard-hitting Ed Zwick drama set in South Africa that costars DiCaprio, Djimon Honsou and Jennifer Connelly. Thompson treads gingerly in describing the film, but the piece nonetheless contains three “tells.”
One, she calls it “a big expensive drama with a heartfelt political message, just the kind of movie that needs the extra boost of an Oscar campaign.” Two, she says that Warner Bros. “will mount Oscar campaigns for both The Departed” — in which DiCaprio definitively kills as a Boston-mob mole — “[which is] already a commercial success and doesn’t need an Oscar push to attract audiences, and Diamond, which needs all the help it can get.” And three, she says that “if Departed really takes off as a Best Picture contender — and if Diamond doesn’t — then DiCaprio too could be promoted from supporting actor consideration for the Scorsese movie into a best actor aspirant for that movie as well.”
Dicaprio, Thompson proclaims, “is front and center in an anti-hero role” in the Zwick film. “He’s a ruthless South African diamond smuggler who enlists Connellly’s perky journalist to help him find the missing son of Honsou’s South African farmer — as well as his buried giant diamond. Along the way, Connelly and Hounsou’s characters both help DiCaprio’s damaged treasure hunter find his conscience. It’s DiCaprio’s movie all the way, thick Afrikaner accent and all, and Warners is pushing him for a best actor nomination.
“There’s just one problem: The studio’s Departed has become such a hit with critics and audiences that the one movie Scorsese and DiCaprio had no intention of campaigning for has become a serious Oscar contender as well. This leaves the studio scrambling to take care of the needs of all its players.”
DiCaprio, she concludes, “is facing the happy dilemma of handling two possibly Oscar-worthy performances. Warners says it will campaign for DiCaprio in the best actor category for Diamond, a movie whose political agenda he cares about deeply.
“At this point, according to his p.r. rep Ken Sunshine, DiCaprio will join his Departed brothers in the supporting actor category, which will pit him against Nicholson and Damon in a hugely competitive race along with likely contenders Hounsou, Adam Beach (Flags of Our Fathers), Eddie Murphy (Dreamgirls), Jackie Earle Haley (Little Children), James McAvoy (The Last King of Scotland), Michael Sheen (The Queen) and Alan Arkin (Little Miss Sunshine).” (HE says forget Haley and McAvoy.)”