The Internet is filled with side-by-side photos of J. Edgar Hoover and Leonardo DiCaprio, who plays Hoover in the film J. Edgar. There is a similarity in facial shape and features grouped close together, and DiCaprio nails the famous Hoover scowl. Yet, in portraying a person who could be termed the most enigmatic man in American history over a span of more than 50 years, DiCaprio had to tap into the nature of the controversial FBI director.
“It was a terrific challenge to breathe life into this person, because he was such a mystery,” DiCaprio says. “I did find that he was very manipulative and very charming; he could charm anyone in the room but at the same time intimidate them. He liked the spotlight, but he concentrated so much on work that it defined much of who he was, his morals, the decisions that he made on really every level. I hesitate to use the word ‘priest’ because J. Edgar Hoover was no priest, but he certainly looked at the FBI as his church.”
The physical transformation was not as difficult as the mental one, but it was time-consuming, particularly as Hoover grew older. The star spent hours with makeup artists who gave him yellow teeth, liver spots, wrinkles and love handles. And at one point, he gets to wear a dress.
J. Edgar director Clint Eastwood says of DiCaprio, “Leonardo could make a lot of money making mechanical genre pictures, but he wants to be challenged. And it’s much more of a challenge to play someone who doesn’t have the slightest thing in common with you.”
“J. Edgar” is available starting Feb. 21 on Video On Demand. Check your cable system for availability.
© 2012 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.