Leonardo DiCaprio in Romeo + Juliet
(20th Century Fox)

Leonardo DiCaprio Has Mastered the Art of the Himbo

The art of crafting a “himbo” performance isn’t easy, mainly because you can’t exactly dive into it. Leonardo DiCaprio has shown us time and time again that he can do so in a way that is fresh, exciting, and not a repeat performance each time, right up through Killers of the Flower Moon.

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Whether it is characters like Romeo Montague in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet or even his take on Jay Gatsby in Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby to characters like Rick Dalton in Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood from director Quentin Tarantino, DiCaprio plays the intelligence of his characters in a way that doesn’t make you feel bad for them.

He isn’t the first to bring a himbo to life, nor is he the only and the best. Famously, Chris Hemsworth nails the himbo art of Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But there is a way in which DiCaprio ebbs and flows throughout the idea of a himbo. He brings them to life in completely different ways, all being separate characters from one another. We, as the audience, find ways to love them all even when they are at their lowest.

That’s what helped him craft one of his worst characters yet—a character so despicable and horrid, so easily manipulated because he lacks any understanding of the world around him, that you cannot forgive the brain cells he clearly does not have. That character is Ernest Burkhart in Killers of the Flower Moon. Now, calling a character like Ernest a “himbo” is not an honest assessment, because there is nothing sweet about him. Ernest is an uneducated man who can barely read and is easily manipulated, and people like his uncle, William King Hale (Robert De Niro), use this to their advantage.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s filmography prepared him for Ernest

Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio) talking to his uncle William Hale (Robert De Niro) in 'Killers of the Flower Moon.'
(Paramount Pictures/Apple TV+)

With the definition of “himbo” being an “attractive but unintelligent man,” Ernest is, by definition, a himbo—especially since his own wife, Mollie (Lily Gladstone), even calls him attractive but not smart when she’s talking to her sisters. What I think is fascinating about DiCaprio’s career is that it takes an actor of incredible skill to play these characters who show no sort of intelligence and make them fascinating to watch. With Ernest, he’s horrific, yet DiCaprio plays a part in Gladstone’s story that is interesting to watch.

DiCaprio could easily make all these men the same, hapless men who don’t know their right foot from their left, but they all have layers to them that make their actions more intriguing to the audience. With Rick Dalton, you care about his career and how he continues to fail. With Ernest, it’s all about how Mollie is going to get out of this relationship and save herself from Ernest and his uncle. DiCaprio’s ability to sell how easy it is for Ernest to be manipulated by Hale and that he’s so willing to let his uncle tell him what to do plays into the idea that this movie is not a love story.

No matter how “smart” he is, if this man loved Mollie at all, he wouldn’t hurt her as he did, and DiCaprio’s performance really highlights that fact his ability to play these less than intelligent men while drawing a clear difference between how some of them care for others and Ernest’s lack of care and attention to Mollie.

(featured image: 20th Century Fox)

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her current obsession is Glen Powell's dog, Brisket. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.