CinemaCon: First Look at Leonardo DiCaprio as ‘Hoover’

Published 4 years ago by , Updated June 27th, 2013 at 3:15 pm,

One of America’s most intriguing officials lived a life destined to reach the big screen. The story of former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover is being tackled by legendary filmmaker Clint Eastwood with a portrayal by Leonardo DiCaprio in the upcoming biopic J. Edgar.

At CinemaCon, Warner Bros. gave a quick sneak peek of DiCaprio as Hoover – and it was an impressive 30 seconds.

In the midst of an extensive sizzle reel promoting Warner Bros.’ upcoming slate of films, a small bit of J. Edgar was put on display. It was a simple scene – DiCaprio as Hoover giving an impassioned speech to Congress. It was a single shot, slowly rising and approaching DiCaprio. Yet, in all this simplicity was evidence that DiCaprio has completely embodied the enigmatic FBI Director in what might be Clint Eastwood’s best film in some time.

That’s quite a lot to say after only seeing 30 seconds, and it is meant to be taken with a grain of salt. Unforgiven is a true classic and Million Dollar Baby did win Best Picture, but few characters are so wonderfully engaging as J. Edgar Hoover. The charismatic character exudes an intensity few figures in history can challenge. While much of his personal controversy came later in life, there is plenty to tackle in the early years.

DiCaprio on set as J. Edgar Hoover (via SplashNews)

The clip shown at CinemaCon was quick, but intense. It grabbed attention with force and immediately sucked the audience in – maybe that was all DiCaprio. The scene showed Hoover testifying before Congress in regards to the proposed National Fingerprint Database.

“Bring all the fingerprints in this country to my office so that we may create a central file to help arm our agents so that they may have a fighting chance against the sub-machine guns of some of the most dangerous characters in the history of American criminality. And I urge you to do this in the name of little Lindy, because if he can be taken, then what child is safe? … If we cannot aid in his safe return, then what use are we?”

It may be difficult to read that with no reference and believe it was engaging, but it was. As mentioned, DiCaprio has captured the personality of Hoover. After all, this is the actor who has already brilliantly portrayed (brilliantly) real-life characters like Howard Hughes (the Aviator) and Frank Abagnale, Jr. (Catch Me If You Can). Many other characters exist within fictionalized true stories and he continues to shine in those instances. It is clear DiCaprio is at his best when he has something real to latch onto.

One note on the performance was his accent. Hoover had a very distinct accent and deliberate speech pattern. While it was jarring to hear DiCaprio at first, it grew on me rather quickly. In the context of an entire film, it should be easier to listen to, but just like Blood Diamond, some audience members will, undoubtedly, complain. Frankly speaking, Hoover didn’t talk in a fashion that movie fans would enjoy. He was quick, intense, passionate and long-winded – which makes for great moments like the one we saw at CinemaCon.

clint eastwood directs hoover biopic CinemaCon: First Look at Leonardo DiCaprio as Hoover

Hoover’s past is ironically quite mysterious. As the leader of the nation’s first truly effective investigative system, he found a way to completely control the public perception of his lifestyle and his personal motivations have always been held under major scrutiny. The big question actually is the man he promoted to the public. Among other reasons, this is one aspect of the biopic that should make it especially compelling.

Looking at the big picture, biopics are tough. It is easy to focus on one segment of a particular life, but from the sound of it Eastwood will attack the larger scope of Hoover’s life. DiCaprio and writer Dustin Lance Black have also confirmed that the cross-dressing antics and rumored homosexual tendencies of Hoover will be explored. The complexities of the man’s personality will make for a film that is layered and textured, but could make it especially difficult to keep focused.

J. Edgar Hoover has reached the big screen on a number of occasions. The most difficult challenge, for DiCaprio and Company, is creating a film that is not only true to its character, but engaging and entertaining – beyond the headline antics of Hoover’s controversial side.

What do you think of the upcoming biopic? Do you need to see more to get behind it or are you excited to see DiCaprio and Eastwood team up on the big screen?

J. Edgar looks to reach theaters by late 2011.

TAGS: Hoover
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  1. I had to pop down here before I even finished the article to ask — what problem did people have with Blood Diamond? I have Afrikaner friends and I am very familiar with the Afrikaans accent. DiCaprio did an absolutely fantastic job and it was very good.

    Did people complain because they couldn’t understand him or something? It just doesn’t make sense.

    I think after the debacle of his accent on The Man in the Iron Mask, he was never going to suck at it again.

    • The reason people were complaining is that once somebody gets an internet connection, they seem to automatically think they are an expert linguist.

      Let’s face it, probably 80% of people who complain about accents in movies have no idea what they’re talking about and another 10% are only complaining because they’re not used to hearing the actor speak in another person’s voice.

      • Biggest prob with Leo is he never developed into a man.

        He’s a little boy.

        John Waynes Ghost laughs at him. And so do I.

        • 790,

          Have you seen some of Leo’s recent films? He’s not the kid on the Titanic any more.


        • If John Wayne had even an inkling of the range Leo does, that might mean something.

          The era of the “man” has left you by, big guy. Intelligence and wit rule the world now. If Marion Morrison (such was his real name) were an actor today, he’d never get past character roles.

          • Dream on. He is still one of the most popular actors. Show up. Learn the lines. Stand in the right spot. Doesn’t be a wuss.

  2. I don’t think people were necessarily confused by or didn’t understand the accent, some people were just unable to accept it from an actor who’s image (and voice) is so hugely public. I was initially jarred by the accent in promos for Blood Diamond, but within the first 5 minutes of the film I’d come to accept it (it is very impressive) – which I’m guessing is what Mike’s point is about his ‘Hoover’.

  3. I’m with you on that one, Jensketch. I think he did a great job, as do most of my friends. But I still hear people whine about it.

  4. Hmm, I just dont see DeCaprio as Hoover, but I guess we can have Brad Pitt as Lincoln next.

  5. I totally agree with jensketch.

    I spent a summer in South Africa and their Afrikkan dialect is almost impossible to portray. I mean even understanding them took a few while.

    After watching a few movies set in South Africa and surrounding countries that speak Afrikkan (Catch a Fire, Cry Freedom, Blood Diamond for example), DiCaprio nailed it.

    Denzel did a good job speaking Afrikaan in Cry Freedom. But the way he carried himself made him an excellent Biko.

    But I still think Leo did better at replicating the dialect than Denzel.

    BTW Anyone who hasn’t seen Cry Freedom, check it out.

  6. I think its called jealousy! I have seen this type of dissing in the past when it comes to Leonardo DiCaprio. He is such a terrific actor, that for some people they find it hard to believe he is that good. So instead of acknowledging his talents they rather find faults in everything he does. They get a joy out of that, weird!! I also know the South African accent, and Leo did a fabulous job.

    • Exactly! People just don’t like to believe “the kid from Titanic” is actually a GREAT actor!

  7. I believe this movie will be the chance for dicaprio to get his so much deserved oscar who he should have get long long ago!

  8. Oh please Rose,
    I will tell you why I find him annoying…Its because of women. Not because they love him or get wet thinking of him, but because they will side with him no matter what. He is not a bad actor by any means but he is a one trick pony and people are sick of seeing him so often. This is the sore truth. This is something actors should be wary of-overexposure.
    He should quit acting and go into directing or producing to be honest.

    • That makes no sense. An actor’s job is to take roles in films, he’s an ACTOR If your talking about actor/actress who are overexposed, lets think. Samuel L. Jackson, Seth Rogen, Morgan Freeman, Matt Damon.. thats just a few.

        • touche

      • Definitely agree Cal. I wouldnt say that Leo is over-exposed. He is just awesome at what he does so he gets more parts. Also agreed that sammy j and seth rogen are wayyyy overexposed. Morgan and Matt CAN do some good acting but its been a while since they have done anything good.

        • Invictus, Green Zone, True Grit……hello mate, good movies to me mate

      • Morgan Freeman is an amazing actor

    • I think perhaps you haven’t seen the variety of his work if you think he’s a one-trick pony. Give Basketball Diaries a try. Eating Gilbert Grape. That was all before Titanic.

      In Blood Diamond he was truly excellent (I even liked him in The Beach) and he was again great in The Gangs of New York, Shutter Island and The Departed.

      People who don’t like DiCaprio generally have only seen him in Titanic and Inception and don’t like his fame.

      I actually could give two figs about his fame. He’s grown into quite a good actor.

      • Exactly. even his earliest work like This Boy’s Life and The Quick and the Dead he was showing signs of great acting chops.

        • Also, I thought the Beach was a pretty damn good movie and his acting in it was great as well.
          “For mine is a generation that circles the globe and searches for something we haven’t tried before. So never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite and never outstay the welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience. And if it hurts, you know what? It’s probably worth it.”

          classic line

    • Totally agree with jensketch, rishi. No one-trick pony could have pulled off a performance as convincing as the one he gave in Gilbert Grape at just nineteen years of age. Also held his own against Robert De Niro in This Boy’s Life – same age.

    • How is DiCaprio over-exposed when he only has two films in two years? He didn’t do anything in 2009 and in 2010 he had Shutter Island and Inception. He’s not like, say Matt Damon who has to be part of every film and television, no matter how small the part is, not complaining, I enjoy seeing Damon, just saying DiCaprio is certainly not over-exposed, in fact I think he took himself too seriously, how the hell hasn’t he done a cameo in entourage? I thought Mark Walhberg and the lead of the show are very good friends of him.

    • If you did at least 2 minutes of research on the guy then you would know that he does work as a producer. In fact he has his own production company. Hell, you may have seen one of the films and not even known it!

  9. Bob Hoskins in Nixon!

    All others are pretenders!

    • Vincent Gardenia in the Martin Sheen Kennedy miniseries was pretty unsettling as well…

  10. I’ve enjoyed most of his films, no complaints.

    The ONLY thing that takes a while for me to get used to when he does a character that’s supposed to be from a rough and tumble background like Titanic and The Gangs of New York. He was great in each, but he looked so boyish it took a while for me to accept him in character.

  11. The accent is a problem, no doubt.

  12. I have to go back to the “one trick pony” comment. Obviously I suspect a troll at work but from It’s A Boys Life, Gilbert Grape, The Departed, Gangs of New York, The Aviator and Blood Diamond I think Dicaprio has proven over and over that he is a great talent and one of the better actors of his generation. I fully expect another great job in Hoover and I won’t be surprised if next February he takes home Oscar #1….

  13. Leonardo DiCaprio is a very, very talented actor and Clint Eastwood is an excellent director. I have total faith that this movie will be great. Like the above article said, Leo HAS very successfully portrayed Howard Hughes and Frank Abagnale, JR. Besides those two he has a very great resume. I’m happy he’s portraying J. Edgar Hoover. He’ll be great!

  14. Vic,,,
    Well his latest was “Inception” so yes I’ve seen his latest.

    He’s cursed with good dna. Eternally young. Hey it could be worse. :)

    • 790,

      Go rent Blood Diamond. He looks much more “gritty” and old school actor in that film. It really turned me around about him when I saw it.


  15. Kevin I’m talking about the on screen larger then life mojo!

    Not the iq factor.

    • Ah, “Larger than Life Mojo”. I thought we were talking about talent.

  16. Dude let’s go there!

    So your saying that Caprio has more talent then John Wayne.

    Eh hmmm you are a fool my friend. :)

  17. Hello,,,,,,,,
    Quiet out there!

    Ya hah!!!

    • The fact that Leo is more talented than John Wayne goes without saying. Did Wayne ever do the range of roles that Leo did? Did he ever have to do roles as challenging as those of Howard Hughes, Danny Archer, and Jim Carroll?

      I’m not denying that John Wayne was good at what he did, but he was always at his best when acting withing a single archetype. Leo has range, and just because you refuse to see it doesn’t mean it’s not there.

  18. Let’s all take a step back here.



    • I don’t think I have ever disagreed with you more in my year+ at Screen Rant.

  19. Leo has definitely proven himself as a GREAT actor. Usually when people complain about him, I assume they are still living in 1997 when Titanic was overexposed or refuse to believe that the guy is not a kid anymore. I used to not like Leo as an actor- I thought Titanic was too big for him at that age. But I turned around when I saw Gangs of New York. Martin Scorsese obviously saw something in him & he was absolutely right. Leo is a rare gem in the acting community. He carefully selects roles based on the challenge of the part rather than how much money it will gross or how many awards it will win. How can anyone accuse him of over exposure? He is only in one or two films every two years. And he never discusses his private life. He is actually hardly ever exposed if we are looking at Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, etc. Anyway, I think he is a fantastic actor- he continues to evolve as a performer while many actors find a comfort zone & stay there. Leo’s film roles are all different characters. Looking at modern actors today, Leo is right there near the top of my list.

  20. There is an intense amount of jealousy for Leo DiCaprio. Not only here but on a few other boards too.. Particularly from fans of other actors who will never ever be what Leo is: an awesome legend who is loved by many and envied by many… The jealous haters simply cannot accept that Leo is a diverse and talented and amazing actor who takes on any role given to him.

    In addition, he is a very handsome man who is a thoroughly nice guy and he always makes great movies and always gives a wonderful performance, and this gets up peoples noses like you wouldn’t believe. I mean, I actually know forums where people actually register specifically to diss Leo.

    One is the imdb boards: there are a couple of haters on the LEO page that are just so hateful towards him, and one of them called mitch, is a miserable failed actor who is about 50, who is utterly vile about him. He is the most bitter, jealous, nasty, mean-spirited pig I have ever encountered on the internet. And just like some on here; he accuses people who defend Leo, of being middle aged ‘Lenny Ladies’ who defend him because they fancy him.

    The haters are pathetic. To come onto the internet, to simply slate someone and state how rubbish you think they are, shows that you are a bitter, spiteful failure, who has done NOTHING with their life, and is capable only of being jealous of handsome, successful people. In a word they are PATHETIC.

  21. i saw the filming of this in washington d.c. two weekends ago. i got to meet clint, naomi, and armie hammer. leo was extremely focused on the part and looked very relaxed.

    i’m personally looking forward to the film. i think leo’s work in shutter island, the departed, and inception was great. titanic is a good movie too, but i think leos really proven himself as an actor since then.

    hope he gets an oscar!

  22. No one has made mention of his role in Revolutionary Road. That was one of his best performances to date! I read that making that movie was so emotionally and physically exhausting for him that the production for the following movie he did was pushed back for 2 months so that he could unwind and properly prepare for the role.

    I think that he gets so consumed by the characters that he needs time to get back to himself. I wonder how long of a break he will need after his role as Dr. H.H Hughes (America’s first serial killer) in Devil In The White City?
    (He now owns the rights to the book, and will be producing the film!)