For true Frank Sinatra fans like me, the news last week that Leonardo DiCaprio will be portraying Ol’ Blue Eyes in a major motion picture on the singer’s life was not exactly reason for celebration. The film will be directed by Martin Scorsese which explains why DiCaprio was chosen, since in recent years, Scorsese seems to be unable to make a picture without using him as his lead. “The Sinatra Story” (or whatever it will ultimately be called) is going forward with the cooperation of the Sinatra family, which means that the singer’s actual recordings will be used in the picture, so at least the music will be perfect. But DiCaprio as Sinatra? Please.
Let’s start with the looks. Despite his Italian name, DiCaprio has a Slovak look to him, wide-set eyes, a round flat face with soft, doughy features, about as far removed from the Frank Sinatra bone structure as you can get. Although he’s not heavy, DiCaprio gives the impression of being a big man, certainly larger than Frank was. Sources say DiCaprio is around 5’11’’ or 6’ tall, Sinatra was 5’ 7” at best, and until later in life, skinny as a rail.
Beyond the physical structure there is the body language of Frank Sinatra. Sinatra had a way of moving, of looking, of standing still, of reacting that most of us still know quite well. DiCaprio might be able to mimic it, but no matter how well he does it, it will still be Leonardo DiCaprio mimicking Frank Sinatra. And it will be Leonardo DiCaprio lip-syncing Frank Sinatra’s voice. DiCaprio is too famous on his own to pretend to be some other iconic famous person, especially an original like Sinatra, whose looks and nuances are still so well remembered.
If you just go by looks and type alone, about the only one DiCaprio should be portraying in a biopic is Charles Bronson. He’s got that flat-faced, thick lipped Eastern European look that is just right for Bronson. DiCaprio even has that slight lisp in his speech and the angry eyes that Bronson used so well. Yep, that might work.
If Scorsese decides to have other members of the rat pack in the film it will be interesting to see who he casts. How about Matt Damon as Dean Martin, Jamie Foxx as Sammy Davis Jr., George Clooney as Peter Lawford, and Ben Stiller as Joey Bishop? And why not? Are any of those any more absurd than Leonardo DiCaprio as Frank Sinatra?
When Larry Parks starred as Al Jolson, the real Jolson had been out of the limelight for years; young movie-goers of the late 40’s had no memories of Jolson. That made Parks, who was a virtual unknown, perfectly acceptable for the part. Cary Grant, while certainly not unknown, portrayed Cole Porter, but remember, not many people really knew what Porter looked like. Bigger than life Jimmy Cagney was perfect as bigger than life George M. Cohan in “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
But how perfect was it that Sean Penn, Jim Carrey, and Benecio Del Toro were originally slated to star in a movie about The Three Stooges? Latest word has it that Penn has now dropped out of the project, so the role of Larry is open for all comers. Are you listening Russell Crowe? It’s all yours, babe! Nyuk, nyuk!
Okay, here’s some other good biopic ideas I offer free of charge. Any producers out there, please, feel free to run with these.
• “The Judy Garland Story” starring Miley Cyrus
• “The Michael Jackson Story” starring Johnny Depp
• “The Fred MacMurray Story” starring Tom Hanks
• “The Elisha Cook Jr. Story” starring Robert Downey Jr.
• “The Fred Astaire Story” starring Richard Gere (remember how wonderfully he danced in “Chicago?”)
• “The Red Skelton Story” starring Conan O’Brien
• “The Barbra Streisand Story” starring Barbra Streisand
• “The James Brolin Story” starring Barbra Streisand
• “The Saul Alinsky Story” starring Barak Obama