Leonardo DiCaprio has his Oscar. Finally.
The 41-year-old actor, arguably the best of his generation, didn’t win it for The Revenant. Well, technically he did, sure. That was what the nomination was for, anyway. And it will go down as one of his signature roles, that of embattled, bear-mauled, vengeance-fueled frontiersman Hugh Glass.
But if you think about it, DiCaprio won his Oscar Sunday for playing a young rogue who finds love before tragedy strikes in Titanic. He won for the eccentric Howard Hughes in The Aviator and the party-hearty Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wolf Street. He won for his undercover cop in The Departed, his Irish brawler in Gangs of New York, his diabolical plantation owner in Django Unchained, his developmentally disabled boy in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.
His shining moment taking the Oscar stage was 25 years in the making, ever since he made his big-screen debut — albeit inauspiciously — in Critters 3. He may have earned his new piece of home décor for The Revenant, making the most of his fifth acting nomination, but he deserves it for his entire IMDb page.
Others have won these “career” Oscars before. It took his buddy Martin Scorsese decades before finally nabbing a best director Oscar — the sixth time, a win for 2006’s The Departed, was the charm for him. Meryl Streep is the most nominated thespian ever, with 19 to her credit since 1979, but there was nearly 30 years in between winning for Sophie’s Choice in 1983 and for The Iron Lady in 2012.
DiCaprio arguably had his best chance in 2005 with his acclaimed portrayal of Hughes, yet that was Jamie Foxx’s year to win best actor as another true-life icon, Ray Charles, in Ray. And as impressive as Leo was as just a teen in Gilbert Grape, he was upended for best supporting actor in 1994 by Tommy Lee Jones’ marshal on a mission in The Fugitive.
That’s just stuff the Academy actually felt was worthy of fêting, though. DiCaprio was snubbed of deserving nods over the years for Gangs, Inception, Django, Catch Me If You Can, Titanic, Shutter Island and Revolutionary Road. It happens.
This was his year, and The Revenant showed off a different side of his craft altogether. Gone were the good looks of most of his roles, the knowing smirk of Jay Gatsby, the suave way with words. It was almost a silent-movie performance as Glass, a man who survives a deadly bear, watches the murder of his son with nothing he can do about it, almost dying in hazardous weather conditions, sleeping in a horse corpse but ultimately finding redemption.
Maybe he should have chowed down on raw bison liver earlier.
It was a long journey for DiCaprio himself getting to the Oscars stage and taking a winning lap, but he got there. And for now at least, undoubtedly, he is king of the world.