Leonardo DiCaprio sleeps with the fishes

June 24, 1999|By Kevin Cowherd

EVERY ONCE in a while, you come across something in the newspaper so profoundly disturbing that you just want to go back to bed and pull the covers over your head.

This happened to me the other morning.

The sun was shining and the birds were chirping and I was on the back deck, enjoying my fourth cup of coffee and vibrating like a cheap motel bed, which is how you need to be in order to read the paper sometimes.

And there it was, a short item on Page 2 of this very section.

This is what it said: A fourth "Godfather" movie was in the works. And one of the actors already signed on was Leonardo DiCaprio.

I'm not exactly sure what happened next, except suddenly everything started to spin and I was gasping for breath.

And a voice inside my head screamed:

Leonardo DiCaprio?! In a "Godfather" movie?!

Is it me or is this the most sacrilegious thing you've ever heard? Since when do mopey teen heartthrobs land a role in "Godfather" flicks?

This is like hearing that 28 years ago, Francis Ford Coppola looked around for someone to play Don Corleone in the original "Godfather" and chose David Cassidy.

Or that when he was casting the role of young Vito Corleone in "The Godfather Part II," Coppola said: "Maybe we should look at that Chachi guy on `Happy Days.' "

Or that when it was time to cast the trigger-happy nephew in "The Godfather Part III," Coppola said: "I don't see anyone except Michael J. Fox playing this part, do you?"

I've heard about casting against type, going for a fresh face. But . . . Leonardo DiCaprio?!

Look, there should be one and only one criterion for landing a starring role in a "Godfather" movie. And that criterion is this: You have to look like you could whack somebody.

Or have somebody whacked for you.

You have to look like you could strangle someone across a polished bar with a length of piano wire.

Or put a bullet in a guy's head while you sit behind him in a dark, late-model sedan, taking pains not to damage the cannolis.

You have to look like you could pick up the phone and calmly order someone to chop off the head of a thoroughbred race horse and place it in the bed of a movie mogul who's giving you a hard time.

Or that you could celebrate your child's baptism with the wholesale massacre of your former business associates.

Now I ask you: Does Leonardo DiCaprio look like someone who could do all this?

I don't think so.

Leonardo DiCaprio looks like someone who, if he got really, really mad at you, would tell his limo driver not to give you a lift downtown.

Or, if the two of you were at a restaurant together, he'd refuse to pass you the sugar for your iced tea.

Think of the rugged giants who played in the original "Godfather": Marlon Brando, James Caan, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall.

Every one of them looked like they could feed you to the wolves and watch the whole thing while they ate their breakfast.

Even the supporting actors in the original "Godfather" looked like they'd whack you in a heartbeat.

Abe Vigoda as Tessio, Richard Castellano as Clemenza, the guy who played Luca Brasi -- if I owed money to any of those guys, I'd be out of the country on the next plane.

The other thing about Leonardo DiCaprio in a "Godfather" movie is this: I am just now getting over all the hype and hoopla that surrounded this guy in "Titanic."

For months, I had to walk into my 13-year-old daughter's bedroom, which had become a Leonardo DiCaprio shrine, and see pictures of this guy and his thick collagen-enhanced lips plastered all over the walls.

Believe me, the last thing I need now is to go see "Godfather IV" in a crowded movie theater and turn around and find my daughter and her friends screaming "Leo!" whenever this guy's on the screen.

One more litmus test for a role in a "Godfather" movie:

Remember the classic scene in the original "Godfather" where Sonny, enraged because his brother-in-law has been cuffing around his sister, beats the heck out of the brother-in-law with a garbage can lid?

Could you ever -- ever -- envision Leonardo DiCaprio playing that part?

Thank you. I rest my case.

What's next: one of the Backstreet Boys playing a rival mob boss?

Ooooh. Just felt a chill go through me.

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