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Why Leonardo DiCaprio Passed on Anakin Skywalker in the ‘Star Wars’ Prequels

By the year 1999, a time when Star Wars devotees waited with bated breath for the triumphant return of their most cherished franchise with not one but three new installments, Leonardo DiCaprio had already done some solid work. He had broken out big as a youngster in role alongside Robert De Niro and Johnny Depp in This Boy’s Life and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, respectively. He had proven his chops as an actor with a meaty role in The Basketball Diaries and attained full sex-icon status through dreamboat appearances in Romeo + Juliet as well as Titanic, which also made DiCaprio one of the most highly bankable stars on the planet.

The man had quite a few accomplishments to his name by the time George Lucas came a-calling during pre-production for The Phantom Menace, inquiring as to whether DiCaprio might be interested in portraying Anakin Skywalker, the boy who would be Darth. This came to light in a new interview that The Shortlist conducted with DiCaprio, wherein they asked him why he turned down what must have seemed like a tremendously lucrative opportunity at the time. With the benefit of hindsight on his side, DiCaprio simply chuckled and explained:

There’s a rumour you screen-tested for [the role of Robin in Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever]…
I never screen-tested. I had a meeting with Joel Schumacher. It was just one meeting and, no, I didn’t end up doing it.

Did you actually want the role?
Er, I don’t think I did, no (laughs). As I recall I took the meeting, but didn’t want to play the role. Joel Schumacher is a very talented director but I don’t think I was ready for anything like that.

Do you feel like you dodged a bullet?
(Laughs.)

Were you in talks to play Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels?
I did have a meeting with George Lucas about that as well, yes.

What happened?
Same scenario (laughs).

Not “ready” is an extremely diplomatic way of putting it, Mr. DiCaprio. Tactfully handled.

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