DiCaprio Talks About Going Green and "11th Hour"
LOS ANGELES - Leonardo DiCaprio is an Oscar nominee and the star of the biggest box office movie hit Hollywood has ever seen, 1997's "Titanic" with $1.8 billion in global ticket sales.
For a decade he has used his celebrity to raise awareness about environmental issues, and on Friday his new global warming documentary, "The 11th Hour," debuts in major U.S. cities.
DiCaprio talked to Reuters about his involvement in the cause and the documentary, which he narrates and produced. "11th Hour" was directed by sisters Leila Conners Petersen and Nadia Conners.
Q: What about you made you get involved in environmental issues?
A: "It goes back to my childhood and came from watching documentaries about the rainforest and the loss of habitats and species. After that "Titanic" movie, I wanted to become more involved. There was a lot of attention on me, and I wanted to focus on something meaningful to me."
Q: Why global warming, in particular?
A: "It was a visit to the White House. The vice president at the time, Al Gore, sat me down for an hour and drew out a map of what exactly global warming was, and how he felt it was the greatest challenge of the next millennium. Since then -- that was the late 1990s -- I've become an activist."
Q: How have things changed in this decade that led to making "The 11th Hour."
A: "I became disheartened. I felt the (discussion) became an argument. It wasn't based on the overwhelming evidence from scientists that global warming was a reality. It became a debate much like whether a meteor was going to hit Earth -- not about solutions and policies and cultural awareness. Thankfully Al Gore's movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," came out (in 2006).
"In the last year people are taking this issue more seriously than they ever have, and it's a direct result of affecting people's emotions in a cinematic format."
Q: "11th Hour" has two distinct parts -- the first is a rather gloomy picture of climate change, but the second has a hopeful outlook with solutions. Why that structure?
A: "The people we spoke to dictated the narrative. All of them agreed the problems are huge and monumental, but they would not continue the fight if there weren't so many alternatives out there. With technologies available today, we can reduce the human imprint by 90 percent."
Q: The movie talks about things people can do such as buying energy efficient appliances and supporting "green" politicians. Can you elaborate on solutions?
A: "It's voting two ways -- voting at (polling) booths and voting with your dollars, endorsing new technologies and companies that come up with cheaper alternatives. Look at the revolution with the (hybrid gas/electric) Toyota Prius. That has shown automakers there is a demand for alternative vehicles, and it has propelled the auto industry into the future. It's supply and demand, ultimately."
Q: In your own life, what practical things do you do?
A: "I've tried to lead a green lifestyle. I have a hybrid car. I have solar panels on my house. But I also know that is not a reality for everyone and not every economic background."
Q: For any movie to work, audiences need to connect to the story. How do you humanize the story of climate change?
A: "This is an issue about human rights, not just in our lifetime but for our children. Certainly when people are emotionally engaged in that way, they don't see themselves as separate from nature but a part of nature. The biggest purpose of this movie was connecting nature again with human activity and the way we live our lives and who we are."
Q: How does the "green movement" keep from becoming a fad.
A: "Hopefully, it's not just a passing fad because this is something that will take decades and new generations to join this fight ... Unfortunately what's probably going to happen is we're going to see a lot more catastrophic events from nature and systems fail."