Leonardo DiCaprio

Catch Me If You Can

Interviewed by Alec Cawthorne

After an extended absence, Hollywood golden boy Leonardo DiCaprio is back in double dosage. You can see the boy become a man in "Gangs of New York" and regress back to childhood as teenage con-artist Frank Abagnale, in "Catch Me If You Can".

How did you get inside the character of Frank Abagnale?

Well, that was in large part thanks to the days that I spent with the real Frank Abagnale. He understood whatever those hidden mechanisms are that convince people to trust you. I kind of watched him and absorbed what I could from him.

So how do you define who Frank Abagnale is/was?

There's a certain defiance and childlike quality in the title "Catch Me If You Can". I think that has a lot to do with the ego of this cocky kid who thinks he can defy everyone, and in fact does. I mean, he had the FBI chasing their tail for years! I think he's one of the most egocentric criminals who ever lived.

You know, he's a juicy character for me to play. He impersonates an airline pilot, a doctor, a lawyer. It's all about the art of misdirection. I think that's a fantastic thing for an actor to play. It was all instinctive to Frank Abagnale and that's what I wanted to bring out in this character.

Do you have a favourite moment in the movie?

I think one of the best sequences in the movie is when he slowly sees the airline pilot coming out of the limousine like royalty or something and he identifies that and thinks to himself, OK, that's the life I want to have. I need that respect, even though I'm 16-years-old. I need that respect. I need to live like that.

What about the scene where he chooses his flight attendants...

That was one of his most stupendous cons. Just to have the chutzpah at 17, 18-years-old, to say, "OK. This airport is riddled with FBI agents who are trying to catch me, but I'm going to do the most obvious thing and bring the most attention to myself." And he walked into that airport with ten stewardesses and what happened is what happened in reality too - all the FBI agents focused on the stewardesses and not on him!

Did you have any qualms about being able to pull off this character, particularly since you were playing a real person?

I don't think I would have had that unique ability to draw people in and engage them as Frank did in this true story. I hope, though, that I've managed to do it for the big screen.

How do you feel about all this attention you're getting, what with two widely anticipated films coming out at the same time?

It's hard to sit here and complain about being chased by paparazzi and the loss of privacy in your life. The truth of the matter is, there's so much upside to it. I've gained so much. I would feel like a fool to sit here and complain about it.