"Leonardo DiCaprio has never been a bigger star" reads the headline of Adam B. Vary's BuzzFeed post on the box office success of "The Great Gatsby." Which doesn't necessarily tell the whole story, this despite the fact that "Gatsby" earned an estimated $51.1 million during its opening weekend.
Make no mistake: This is a good time to be in business with Leonardo DiCaprio. Since 2010, three of his films -- "Shutter Island," "Inception" and "Django Unchained" -- have grossed more than $294 million worldwide, with "The Great Gatsby" on track to hit that number as well. More accolades: "Inception," "The Great Gatsby" and "Shutter Island" account for DiCaprio's three biggest opening weekends ever. (The only flop for DiCaprio during the last three years is 2011's "J. Edgar," which earned just $84 million around the globe.) But a close look at his resume shows that it has almost always been a good time to be in business with Leonardo DiCaprio, at least once "Titanic" launched him to global superstardom.
Vary's piece cites the conventional wisdom that "The Man in the Iron Mask" and "The Beach" are proof of DiCaprio's post-"Titanic" malaise. About that: "The Man in the Iron Mask" -- which famously could not displace "Titanic" at the top of the box office chart, despite the fact that James Cameron's blockbuster was in week 13 of its release -- grossed $182,968,902 worldwide after its release in 1998. In 2012 numbers, that's $255,838,246. Put in star terms: Adjusted for inflation, "The Man in the Iron Mask" grossed $54 million more than Channing Tatum's biggest 2012 hit, "21 Jump Street," earned worldwide.
"The Beach," too, didn't do as bad as many remember. Danny Boyle's film was a bust at the North American box office with just $39,785,027 in ticket sales, but overseas "The Beach" pulled in $104,271,846, giving the film a worldwide tally of $144,056,873. Adjusted for 2012 inflation, that puts "The Beach" at over $189 million worldwide, which -- keeping with the somewhat arbitrary Tatum comparison -- is more than what "Magic Mike" made around the globe last year. This is to say nothing of the fact that neither "The Man in the Iron Mask" or "The Beach" resemble expected box office hits, at least not in the same way as "21 Jump Street" and "Magic Mike." "The Beach," by the way, is still Danny Boyle's second biggest hit ever after "Slumdog Millionaire."
(Vary's post also references the Woody Allen film "Celebrity," which made just $5 million in North America, as a failure. That film's gross, it should be noted, is in line with many of Allen's other releases from the 1990s.)
So, has DiCaprio "never been a bigger star"? Let's call that debatable, if for no other reason than it's hard to imagine 2013 Leo doing that much better with a film like "The Man in the Iron Mask" than 1998 Leo. This is an actor who has been a consistent, global superstar for 15 years, something the success of "The Great Gatsby" and last year's "Django Unchained" (which earned $421 million worldwide) only reinforces. Like the man once said, he's king of the world.