Testing the Leo DiCaprio Trifecta – Bad Accent, Cheap Haircut, Untimely Death


 by Jarrod S. Lipshy

If you’re like me and have watched more than your fair share of Leonardo DiCaprio films, you may have begun to notice some similarities. I couldn’t put my finger on it at first, but while watching Blood Diamond it all sort of clicked. The thing is, while certain actors like Jason Statham and Jennifer Aniston play the exact same character in every movie, the connection between all the Leos is a bit more cryptic. Despite showing a decent acting range, his characters nevertheless feel oddly connected in their appearance, portrayal, and on-screen fates. Mulling this over, I hypothesized that the reason for my déjà vu was that every Leo film must contain the following three elements: bad accent, cheap haircut, and an untimely death.

Is this an accurate depiction of the man’s career? Can such a prolific and revered actor be reduced to three measly bullet points for every one of his films? I set off to find out in this week’s article, scoring the criteria for a generous selection of Leo’s mainstream films, in hopes of finding the answer…

*SPOILERS TO FOLLOW for pretty much every Leo DiCaprio movie ever*

This Boy’s Life


Bad Accent: 0

Leo isn’t really sporting an accent in this movie, despite relying heavily on a “tough-guy” Brooklyn-style way of delivering some of his lines. He’s actually pretty convincing as a little kid who can’t figure out how he fits in.

Cheap Haircut: +3

This is the mother lode of awful hair. I really have no idea what the hell they were thinking with this god-awful Elvis-meets-Eddie-Munster do.

Untimely Death: -1

This movie’s ending is bittersweet, but definitely no dead Leo here.

What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?


Actually, I’m not touching this one with a ten-foot-pole..

The Quick and the Dead


Bad Accent: +2

Dear Sam Raimi, you’re supposed to yell “Cut!” when your actor drops his southern accent more often than a flirtatious inmate drops the soap.

Cheap Haircut: +1

Not awful, but still questionable. This was the beginning of the trend for Leo’s hair having some parts strangely long and others buzzed down to the scalp.

Untimely Death: +3

Getting gunned down in a duel by your own father while bragging that you had figured out how to beat him is pretty damned untimely. Leo’s first tragic end.

The Basketball Diaries


Bad Accent: -1

Leo’s got the tough guy down pat in this role, and displays some genuine emotion with his line delivery. He never breaks the reality with a overdone line, so I’ll give him some cred here.

Cheap Haircut: 0

His hair looks pretty goofy in this one, but that’s mostly because he was portraying a heroin addict. Before his character’s downfall, Leo’s coif was actually pretty dapper in the early 90’s sense, albeit with the annoying long front strands again.

Untimely Death: -3

Wow. I heard a lot about this movie and assumed it ended with a smacked-out Leo overdosing or getting eaten by a bunch of rabid alleycats, but his character actually turns his life around and becomes a successful writer. A very blissful ending for such a gut-wrenching film.

Total Eclipse


Bad Accent: +1

I really don’t know what the hell he was going for with this one, but it sure ain’t French. Here, fazing in and out the accent was more of a blessing as it just let Leo be himself for most of the film, although that self isn’t quite a 19th century French poet.

Cheap Haircut: +1

Ok, after looking at photos of Arthur Rimbaud, that dude was sporting a bit of a rat’s nest of his own. Even so, there’s a way to make messy look good on camera. They didn’t bother.

Untimely Death: +2

Just going to lay this out there: if you want to watch a film where a 20 year-old Leo makes out with a creepy balding ginger man twice his age, this is pretty much your only option. Also, he dies of slow, painful cancer in the end.

Romeo + Juliet


Bad Accent: +2

This movie hit a sour note with many critics despite bringing many girls through a vital moment of self-discovery during puberty. The reason was probably Leo’s god-awful pseudo-British I-don’t-know-what of a delivery that hit the ears like curdled milk.

Cheap Haircut: 0

This is definitely a forced “heart throb” do, but I think it suits the man well for this part. Still, it’s excessively feminine and distracting at times.

Untimely Death: +4

You can’t get any more literal of an “untimely” death than the ending of Romeo and Juliet. Nothing is more tragic than a sixteen-year-old poisoning himself within two minutes of his “true love” waking up from a fake death. This is the benchmark, folks.



Bad Accent: +1

In fairness, a lot of the script in this movie was terrible. I think Leo did a great job with the character, but his delivery often made me wince. In his own words: “This is… bad!”

Cheap Haircut: +1

Again, not the worst, but those stupid front swoopy strands are incredibly distracting. Just give the kid a high-and-tight every once in a while, please?

Untimely Death: +3

Dying several hours after meeting your supposed soul mate was pretty sad. No one really saw this coming, and I think it began the trend of Hollwood producers wanting to murder Leo as a sympathy grab at the end of his films.

Man in the Iron Mask


Bad Accent: +2

Leo, just tell them you can’t do French, ok? Most of the actors in this movie did a half-assed French tinge, and it worked out fine. Doing a garbled half-English, half-French mishmash is just painful.

Cheap Haircut: -1

FINALLY they didn’t cut off the back for no reason. Instead, Leo has long, flowing locks which may be a wig but still look appropriate for the period and give the man a nifty character appearance.

Untimely Death: -3

Both Leos in the film live. While the villain gets detained, he is apparently allowed to live in a cottage somewhere and ruminate on why evil never pays. The other Leo, well, he became the frakkin King of France!

The Beach


Bad Accent: 0

Some of the lines in this movie are pretty bad, but the subtle accent doesn’t get in the way of Leo’s delivery.

Cheap Haircut: +2

Ok, I take back what I said before. Going all short makes Leo look like Matt Damon’s redneck cousin. That might be the character they were going for, but it’s really awful here. Who brings that much product on a vacation?

Untimely Death: -1

I thought for sure this would be a film where Leo get brutally cut to pieces by some locals, but because they’re brown and he ain’t, he gets away with his shenanigans and lives.

Gangs of New York


Bad Accent: +2

I actually really dug this movie a lot, and most of the film depends on the give-and-take between Leo and Daniel Day Lewis’s character, which turned out pretty convincing. While I really enjoyed Leo in this role the man should not be doing Irish.

Cheap Haircut: +1

Looks pretty cool slicked back, but when it’s shoulder-length it’s highly questionable.

Untimely Death: -1

Again, I was shocked he didn’t die in this movie, and in fact I misremembered that detail when starting this list. Things have pretty much gone to shit at the end of the film, but Leo has killed the bad guy and is well alive.

Catch Me If You Can


Bad Accent: 0

This is, without a doubt, my favorite Leo role. Spielberg really made Abagnale a smooth bastard in this film. Leo was cast perfectly as a handsome man who’s able to shill people while pretending to be someone he’s not. His accent, however, gets hard to listen to on occasion. I’d say it’s a tie based on performance merit.

Cheap Haircut: -2

Abagnale evidently had time to go to some kickass barbers while fleecing people. His hair is nothing short of perfect throughout the entire movie (except when he’s locked in a French prison, but what can you do?)

Untimely Death: -2

Yet again this movie had a depressing setup for the ending, but Abagnale’s ultimate fate is pretty serendipitous. I enjoyed the shit out of this movie, and I think the unexpectedly happy ending helped that out.

The Aviator


Bad Accent: +2

Listen to those reference tapes of Howard Hughes a couple of more times, Leo. I think you missed the mark by a wide margin. Good performance overall, but not because of your repugnant attempt at Southern twang.

Cheap Haircut: -1

Howard Hughes had the cash for a snazzy haircut, and the set-dresser reflects this nicely, even when the man’s being a shut-in for several years.

Untimely Death: -1

What? I didn’t know much about Howard Hughes going into this movie, but I assumed he died while laying in bed and bitching about germs. Nope.

The Departed


Bad Accent: +2

I really really don’t know what he was going for here, but it sure ain’t South Bosty. It’s more of a Brooklyn-meets-Rhode-Island accent. It’s incredibly distracting and ruins a lot of moments in the film for me, especially when talking to the psychiatrist character. I respect what he gave to a very demanding performance, but his line delivery broke the fourth wall many a time.

Cheap Haircut: +1

Not the worst. Way better short do than in the Beach, but I still think he wouldn’t be caught dead in this cut walking down a red carpet.

Untimely Death: +3

Here we go! After nearly a decade of being spared by screenwriters, Leo gets plugged in a shocking, last-minute twist right between his pretty blue eyes. I truly did not see this one coming, and felt god-awful that right after Billy Costigan finally got to do his job, he gets a lead sandwich to the forehead.

Blood Diamond


Bad Accent: +3

Ever been to Rhodesia, Leo? Not even close.

Cheap Haircut: +1

Pretty shabby. Not the worst, though.

Untimely Death: +1

Leo’s character redeems his shady ways, but still didn’t have a whole lot to live for other than cash when he sacrifices himself. I’d say it’s still sad, but not super untimely.

Shutter Island


Bad Accent: +2


Cheap Haircut: +1

It’s decent, but still has those random long strands from his youth despite a close shave in the back.

Untimely Death: -1

I won’t ruin this one completely, but suffice it to say that while Leo lives, his life isn’t what he thought it was.

J. Edgar


Bad Accent: 0

Holy schnikies! Leo actually did a damn good job of studying his character, and at almost no point in the clips I watched did I wince in pain. It’s still not the most convincing portrayal, but it’s definitely not bad. You can tell he spent a lot of time studying his character and nailing some of the mannerisms.

Cheap Haircut: +3

Hoover set the standard for awful G-Man haircuts.

Untimely Death: 0

Hoover’s death in office at 77 was morose, but not decidedly tragic or untimely.



Bad Accent: -1

Leo doesn’t lay on an accent at all here. Just a straightforward, compelling performance.

Cheap Haircut: -2

Lookin good yet again, Leo! I think set dressers at this point realized slicked back was a go-to for him.

Untimely Death: ???

Was Leo dead the whole time? Was he just dreaming? Did he ever exist? What did I just watch??

Django Unchained


Bad Accent: +1

Let me say that Tarantino perfectly cast Leo as a self-inflating ham who tries to chew the scenery while “entertaining” his guests and customers. I don’t love Leo’s Southern accent here, but it’s still a vast improvement.

Cheap Haircut: -2

Leo’s Calvin Candy has a genteel Southern coif that he sports quite well.

Untimely Death: +2

I really and truly didn’t see this one coming. Tarantino did a great job of setting up a tense and action-packed fourth act. Take THAT Leo! BLAM!

The Great Gatsby


Bad Accent: -3

Oh. My. God. I typically hate you, Baz Luhrmann, but you’ve gone full circle from directing an unconvincing Leo-as-Romeo to commanding the best character performance from him I’ve ever seen (despite me liking Calvin Candie better). Leo’s accent in this one fills the air, and makes his Gatsby command attention, transcending to pomp tinged with classical romance. At one point I would have suggested to Leo to drop accents altogether, but this movie has proven me wrong. Bravo.

Cheap Haircut: -2

Going slick again for this one. Good call.

Untimely Death: +1

Anyone who’s read Gatsby saw this coming, but the film actually makes it kind of beautiful. Gatsby was stuck in his delusions, so in a way he is free from the pain of his attachment to things he could never have. Still untimely, but not severely so.

Totals (accounting for severity)

Bad Accents: 15

Cheap Haircuts: 5

Untimely Deaths: 6

Based upon my arbitrary scale and cherry-picked samples, I can conclusively say that my theory was correct, though not as strongly defensible as I had thought. The overwhelming trend is that Leo, for a time, thought that it just wasn’t “acting” unless you threw in a hammy accent. His skills with delivery, however, have improved over the years and caught up with his engaging body and facial performances.   Only time will tell if he can continue to convince us we’re watching something other than “Leo acting” for the majority of his films.

As for the hair, a lot of poor decisions were counteracted once set dressers realized “Hey, just slick it back!” and also once 90’s heart throb dos became relics of their time.

Finally, as for untimely deaths, there’s enough to identify a solid trend, but Leo still has his fair share of surprisingly blissful endings. The vividness of him being murdered almost as much as Sean Bean still sticks out in the mind, though, and it warrants him being identified with the few clear-cut examples that exist. So keep murdering Leo, Hollywood, but spare him every once in a while to keep us on our toes!

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  1. Lol @ “excessively feminine” haircut. In 1996 EVERY guy had hair like that. Just re-watch any episode of Friends from the first few seasons. I was 12 that year and can say for sure that almost EVERY boy had a mushroom cut back then. Younger and older than me as well.

    Then again, I’m *kinda* sporting that style right now (not a full fledged ‘shroom, but basically medium length all around with a part in the middle) and last week some bum on the train told me I looked like a girl, lol.

  2. I think the trend had gone on to be that he does not smile! Since Titanic, very few smiling characters, but since he went full psycho in Django, he has started to smile more, in Gatsby, and what appears to be the time of his life in Wolfs of Wall Street. 🙂

    Being a non-native english speaker, I always bought his accents.

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