Leonardo DiCaprio was amazing in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993), portraying a teenager with mental health challenges.
Not knowing his work before, I thought, How was this autistic kid able to work as an actor?
One of the ways he created such a powerful and – many people say – authentic, performance was using his body language, especially restless, energetic movements and hand gestures, as you can see in the movie trailer below.
He once commented, “As a little kid growing up in Hollywood, I was called ‘a little crazy’. And now I guess I’m still that way.”
And he has been making creative use of that “craziness” for years.
DiCaprio has also said, “Portraying emotionally ill characters gives me the chance to really act.”
A “misfit” and “troublemaker”
Like many highly talented actors – and other people – he did not “fit in” or always behave “acceptably” as a child.
At age five, he was in an educational TV program, Romper Room and Friends, and was nearly kicked off for uncontrollable behavior.
That kind of experience, and a number of his comments, remind me of the concept of overexcitability, which is often used in reference to the psychology of gifted and talented people.
Here are more of his comments :
“I cheated a lot, because I just couldn’t sit and do homework. I usually sat next to someone extremely smart.”
“The earliest memories I have are jumping up onstage before concerts in downtown L. A. and trying to get on the mic and break-dance, or do imitations of my mother’s friends or my father’s friends, or be a comic in class.
“I was the most insane child you can imagine, pretty intolerable to be around. High-octane energy all the time, never wanting to focus on schoolwork.” (imdb.com)
He mentioned in an interview with Katie Couric that while filming The Aviator, it brought back his own obsessive-compulsive disorder that he had as a child.
(Quotes are from imdb.com)
The concept of overexcitability / excitability
“Overexcitability is a sensitivity of the nervous system, an expanded awareness of and a heightened capacity to respond to stimuli such as noise, light, smell, touch etc.” – From article: Overexcitabilities in Gifted Children by Lesley Sword, Gifted and Creative Services Australia.
Stephanie Tolan notes the original Polish word can be translated more literally as “superstimulatabilities” and “involves not just psychological factors but central nervous system sensitivity.”
She describes the Psychomotor form of Overexcitability or Excitability: “This is often thought to mean that the person needs lots of movement and athletic activity, but it can also refer to the issue of having trouble smoothing out the mind’s activities for sleeping. Lots of physical energy and movement, fast talking, lots of gestures, sometimes nervous tics.”
From my High Ability site post Dabrowski Excitabilities – Michael Jackson.
See related posts on the Highly Sensitive site.
DiCaprio says, “There was always an element of me that needed to prove something to myself. It’s something I don’t want to get rid of, because it’s what drives me.
“I’m never settled and I’m never satisfied.” [Esquire mag., March 2010]
Hopefully, we can enjoy many more years of his creative excellence and powerful acting.
Article publié pour la première fois le 26/10/2014