Why Leonardo DiCaprio Turned Down A Star Wars Role

Leonardo DiCaprio: owner of Hollywood's most increasingly wizened boy face, as well as non-hirsute dad bod role model for the rest of us. And, of course, he's also a world-renowned, award-winning actor who finally garnered his first Oscar in 2016 for being mauled by a bear and eating raw bison in The Revenant. It seems that a couple decades of on-screen suffering were necessary to recoup the lost faith he'd garnered by turning all heart-throbby and mainstream in 1996's Romeo and Juliet and 1997's Titanic. 

Over the course of his career, DiCaprio has earned a reputation for taking on unconventional roles, challenging himself, and being a true professional. He takes his work very seriously, and is willing to go through great lengths to get in, and stay in, character, such as when he actually sliced his hand open in 2012's Django Unchained after spontaneously smashing a glass onto a table during filming.

These reasons alone might be enough to explain why, when approached to play the role of Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, DiCaprio declined. As countless "sand is coarse and rough and irritating and gets everywhere" memes will attest, the role instead went to Hayden Christensen. It might be fun to imagine DiCaprio on that balcony with Natalie Portman, saying those lines (or, at least, a deepfake version of him), but it sure wouldn't make the dialogue any better. 

Why did DiCaprio turn down such a huge role, though?

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Attack of the Clones opened the same year as Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York, in 2002, which also featured god-tier thespian Daniel Day Lewis. At the time, this was the choice DiCaprio faced. Star Wars films are among the hugest cultural phenomena of our time, no matter how well-received critically, but DiCaprio was clearly thinking about his career trajectory. 

Leading up to the release of Attack of the Clones, George Lucas had been, according to Vanity Fair, sifting through hundreds of actors to find the perfect Anakin, and approached DiCaprio directly, as reported by NME. For his part, DiCaprio said of Star Wars, "I just didn't feel ready to take that dive. At that point." As it happens, DiCaprio also turned down two rather huge comic book superhero offers, as well: he had previously been approached for the role of Robin in Batman Forever (the bat-nipple one) and Spider-Man (presumably the James Cameron-directed version that never happened). Regarding these he said, "They're getting better and better as far as complex characters in these movies," implying that he wouldn't necessarily be opposed to such roles in the future.

Whatever the difference is between "art," commercial art, fine art, and so on, it's clear which side of the discussion DiCaprio falls on. To be fair, though, his career would have taken a very different path if he'd been stuck in the Vader suit at the end of Revenge of the Sith.