Blood Diamond's Leonardo DiCaprio

Set against the backdrop of the chaos and civil war that enveloped 1990s Sierra Leone, Blood Diamond is the story of Danny Archer (Leonardo
DiCaprio), an ex-mercenary from Zimbabwe, and Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou), a Mende fisherman. Both men are African, but their histories and their circumstances are as different as any can be until their fates become joined in a common quest to recover a rare pink diamond, the kind of stone that can transform a life–or end it. The juxtaposition of one man obsessed with finding a valuable diamond with another man risking his life to find his son is the beating heart of this film.

Two Men on a Journey

These two men set off on a journey, one with the intent of getting off the continent, the other with the intent of getting his family back, notes DiCaprio, who stars as Danny Archer. But each character ends up struggling with his own moral decisions.

Zwick explains, Conflict diamonds are stones that have been smuggled out of countries at war. They then go to pay for more arms, increasing the death toll and furthering the destruction of the region. They may be a small percentage of the worlds sales, but, nonetheless, in an industry worth billions of dollars, even a small percentage is worth many millions and can buy innumerable small arms. In the late 1990s, people from such NGOs as Global Witness, Partnership Africa-Canada and Amnesty International gave them a name in order to help bring the crisis into the public consciousness: They called them blood diamonds.

DiCaprio on Zwick

What really impressed me about Ed, DiCaprio remarks, was that he wanted to make an entertaining adventure film, but mixed in were some complex, highly charged political statements. Thats what really got me excited about this film.

Zwick also emphasizes that the story of Blood Diamond is not exclusive to one corner of the globe. There is something universal in the theme of a man trying to save his family in the midst of the most terrible circumstances. It is not limited to Sierra Leone. This story could apply to any number of places where ordinary people have been caught up in political events beyond their control. There are just so many innocent victims.

Gaining Knowledge and Accent

DiCaprio dedicated himself to gaining as much knowledge as he could about the time, the place and the circumstances surrounding the story of Blood Diamond in preparation for their respective roles.

DiCaprio, who worked extremely hard perfecting his accent to play the part of ex-mercenary Danny Archer, affirms, As soon as I read the script, I knew there would be a tremendous amount of personal research involved and that was one of the reasons I was immediately drawn to it. It was imperative for all of us to immerse ourselves in this world and hear firsthand accounts of what happened. For me, playing this man from what was Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), it was especially important to listen to the local people speak. This was an environment unlike anything Id experienced in my life.

Only about Survival

DiCaprios portrayal of Danny Archer, a soldier turned soldier of fortune, fits squarely in the tradition of classic movie anti-heroes, where great actors have been willing to go to a very dark place in service of a role. To see DiCaprio take on that challenge was thrilling for me.

DiCaprio acknowledges that Archers principles have been corrupted by the violence and greed that have plagued his homeland. He has certainly become jaded, the actor attests. He has a cynical view of the world; he looks at the continent of Africa not as his home but as a place where people take advantage of one another. There is no real right or wrongits only about survival.

Cut off from Feelings

Archer is cut off from feeling and has lost himself in the process, Zwick observes. He has exhausted his options; he has seen things and done things that he doesnt want to admit even to himself, and now he just wants to get out. Thats why the diamond doesnt just represent money to him; it means his freedom and escape from his past, adds DiCaprio. But as the story progresses and he is confronted by Maddys idealism and Solomons courage, Archer begins battling his own moralitywhat hes done with his life and what he is doing now.

Zwick on DiCaprio

Leo was ferocious in his commitment to his role, Zwick states. He has this uncanny ability to completely inhabit the character, a willingness to go all the way. He hung out with ex-mercenaries, NGO workers and former soldiers and spent hours just listening to people talk. He finally reached a point where he could improvise even in the dialect. But what emanated from him was not just the language; it was the essence of Danny Archer.

To me, Leo is one of the finest actors of our time, producer Paula Weinstein declares, not just in the way he speaks his lines but in what he is able to express without a single word. An emotion can simply cross his face and you know what he is feeling. Every day on the set, he was professional and committed and curious and present, and I was in constant awe of what he brought to his role.

Gillian Gorfil adds that she was equally in awe of DiCaprios aptitude for the regional dialect. Leo took on the challenge of speaking in an authentic Southern African accent, which is extremely difficult to master. I think what he achieved was astounding. There were times when, if I closed my eyes, I would have mistaken him for one of the members of the local crew. He even started saying howzitthe local slang for hello, how are youas a greeting.