Movie News

Leonardo DiCaprio on The 11th Hour

Source: Heather Newgen
August 14, 2007

Leonardo DiCaprio has never been one to shy away from using his celeb status to voice concern for global warming. While he's always been rather active in seeking steps to change the way people treat our planet, he's taking his encouragement of going to green to another level by narrating and producing the feature length documentary The 11th Hour, which boldly shows the detrimental effects humanity has had on the environment. had the chance to talk to the A-list star about why he's so passionate about being an environmentalist and why it's important to him to persuade others to become more eco-friendly. Why was it so important to you to make this film?
Leonardo DiCaprio: It really was a homemade movie in a lot of ways, and it became about – out of discussions that we had about the environment and media, and the want and the need to hear some of the great experts and visionaries in the environmental field of our time be able to speak in an open form uninterrupted about a subject matter that they've devoted their life to. That was really the basis of wanting to make this movie, wanting to hear some great thinkers really give us some insight as investigators on this issue.

CS: What kind of benefit do you receive for doing something like this?
DiCaprio: Do you mean do I reap any financial benefit from being an environmentalist? It's hard for me to answer that because I don't really look at it that way, in the sense that I became a actor at a very young age, but I also had a deep respect for nature, and I think I was a little biologist when I was younger. I watched documentaries on green course depletion and the loss of species and habitats for animals around the world, and it affected me in a very hardcore emotional way when I was younger, so later in life I wanted to continue that path more and investigate and learn more about ecological issues. That sent me eventually into a room with Al Gore about ten years ago who explained to me what climate change was, and global warming, and the science behind that and the decades of research that he'd done on the subject matter, and it really propelled me to want to be more vocal about the issue, because it seemed to me, and the media and the change of weather that we'd been having, the weather patterns, the flooding, the hurricanes, all these things, there wasn't enough of a connection being made in mainstream media. So it made me want to become more vocal about it, and it led me to work with organizations like Global Green and NRDC, and made me more pro-active in the environmental movement, and it seems now more so than ever we're at a real tipping point, and certainly in the public's eye global warming is at the forefront of a lot of people's minds, and it's been talked about more so than ever. So it's just an exciting movement to be a part of, I think it is the movement of certainly my generation and the next generation, I think it's galvanized the younger generation more than any other movement in years because it's so universal, and it's just exciting to be a part of it all.

CS: What was interesting to me about this film was the connection between consumerism and the environment, younger people are big consumers and they're the consumers of tomorrow, in what way can they make a difference?
DiCaprio: It's a very difficult problem, because in reality how are we going to actually make people stop consuming? That's not the point of the movie, the point in essence is, wouldn't it be great to live in a world where we wouldn't have to think about these kinds of things, where the powers that be, the corporations that manufacture these items, our government, were powered by solar and wind and we had alternate energy resources, and this was just integrated into our every day lives. And in that sense when we talk about voting with your dollar, yes, every time you do buy something you're advocating the way that company does business, and by buying a hybrid car or buying something organic, you're essentially making them create more for the marketplace out there. That will eventually grow, and I think that's the point of the whole situation. We'd all love to live in a world where we wouldn't have to think about these things, that the powers that be thought of that for us.

CS: With the amount of footage you have was there any consideration of doing a miniseries on something like the Discovery Channel?
DiCaprio: We don't know yet as far as that's concerned, but this was the biggest challenge in creatively making this movie… This is a quote that I keep saying, because it was my first experience making a documentary and actually sitting for many, many hours in an editing room with them was that, "When you make a film with a narrative the director is God, when you make a documentary God is the director," and that's really what happened. The experts in this movie and what they said, really dictated the shape of this movie and the emotional content and the structure of this entire film, and they really gave us the tools. It was the stark realities of what's going on in the world we live in. And for us, I think it was very much about realizing that with all these profound ideas and scientific statements that we were given, we had to make something emotional for an audience to engage in, we wanted the audience to leave there feeling slightly transformed, or slightly motivated to actually do something about it, and that was the biggest difficulty. How do you take these profound ideas and thoughts and condense them into this hour and a half format, and hopefully inspire people. So that was the filmmaking side of it all. But we were basically given the plot by these people.

CS: You've spoken a lot about personal responsibility, what do you do to live green?
DiCaprio: I've been driving a hybrid car for five, six years now. My house is built green, I have solar panels on my house, I do most of the stuff that she does except walk to work, and I don't have a compost pile on my house, no, I don't have that. But I try to live by example as well. At the end of the day I keep urging this, and I think this is the new thing that I'm trying to get across here, that I don't think the environmentalists, or the environmental movement, is about telling people how to live, no matter what financial background they come from, because not everyone can put solar panels on their house. It's just not a reality. But it is about just being aware of these global forces that are out there, and being aware in the next election, asking the right questions about what the next candidate's environmental policy is, and voting with your dollar, and being aware of these issues, I think that's the main thing. And, of course, personal action is very important, it's important to lead by example, but until the powers that be truly, like I said earlier, infuse this into our daily way of living, I don't think anything is really going to change on a massive level.

CS: When you talk about the powers that be, people don't change the way they do business, did you encounter any opposition or negativity, like at the Cannes Film Festival when someone mentioned Leo's flying on a private jet.
DiCaprio: I'm sure it's bound to happen, and if this movie is a success by any standard it will happen to more of an extreme. It seems to systematically happen, and it's a way of twisting the argument, and it's a way of deflecting the argument from the bigger picture. And that's what has traditionally happened. Like we say in the film, you look at movements that have happened. It takes many, many years for transformation, the civil rights movements, the peace movements, these things have taken a long time. Unfortunately with this movement we have to start right now, according to the experts out there, we need to start implementing these technologies today. So as far as what we can do... everything has to come from the will of the people.

CS: Do you think more films in Hollywood should go green.
DiCaprio: It would be great; I'd certainly be an advocate for it. I know that the Hollywood system itself produces a tremendous amount of waste in making these movies. This is all a part of the movement we're talking about, from Hollywood down to the way everything is produced in this country, that's what one of the great quotes in this movie is, "We have to reinvent the way we do everything." And you can look at that as an exciting thing or something that makes you depressed, but yeah, absolutely I'd be the first one on board and I've urged it in the past, and it's difficult to make some of these things happen, it really is. When corporations and companies are set in their ways, it's difficult to make a lot of this stuff happen, but I'm certainly on board for that.

CS: Have you decided who you're going to campaign for next year?
DiCaprio: I'm still on the fence about it to tell you the truth. I've yet to hear a candidate that has clearly laid out their environmental policy in a way that's inspiring to me, and I think that there's a lot of time left, and I'm waiting for the right questions to be asked, and these candidates to give really clear responses to what they're going to do in a tangible way, not a lot of rhetoric, I want to hear hardcore facts. So I'm still on the fence and I'm not sure what I'm going to do. I did support Kerry and I went to 14 different states to support Kerry in the last campaign, because I thought he had an amazing environmental policy, but I've yet to hear a candidate that's compared in that regard.

CS: The movie gives a pretty harsh critique of our society, in making this film did you ever step back and question your own world, did you ever think about giving up being an actor?
DiCaprio: You know, I think that if I wasn't an actor I don't think a film like this would be possible in the same sense. I'm very committed to being an environmentalist and I've devoted a lot of time to doing that and getting the message out there, but one hand sort of feeds the other here. I know that hopefully with the amount of people that have seen past works of mine, and the younger generation, will possibly go to see this movie because I'm in it, and that's the role that I've played in this film, and this has been a multi-year process, and one that we put a tremendous amount of thought into. I think ultimately I'm going to continue to be an actor and hopefully do more work like this, and do more projects like this that will garner a bigger audience. The interesting thing about that word environmentalists, there was a certain stigma with what an environmentalist was years ago, this tree hugging, granola eating hippie that goes around and flashes the peace sign all the time, and that's a negative connotation I think in some ways, because not all of us can live that lifestyle. This is a gigantic, worldwide movement that crosses cultural boundaries, religious boundaries, it needs to be far reaching and it needs to unify all of us. And I think even with skeptics out there, even with people that don't even believe in issues like global warming, it is such a unifying issue in the sense that, certainly for the United States, how can you argue with not wanting oil from foreign countries? How can you argue with not wanting to be energy independent? How can you argue with wanting cleaner air, cleaner water? These are fundamental human rights issues at the end of the day, and that's why it is such a universal issue and a movement that we all should be a part of at the end of the day.

CS: This isn't a union film, why not?
DiCaprio: It was three people in an editing room. Maybe some of the visuals in this film are confusing, but this is all stock footage, we didn't have nature crews going out there to Africa to get some of these scenic shots, this is all edited together and it was done by a lot of different favors, and my portion of what I've invested in this movie is all going back into non-profit organizations. It's a different type of film in that regard. There was not giant crew. There were people with HD cameras interviewing people in my mother's garage.

The The 11th Hour hits theatres in New York and Los Angeles this Friday.

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