DiCaprio sheds light on '11th Hour'

He admitted that his mega celebrity is a double-edged sword when it comes to drawing attention to the issues addressed in the film.

Leonardo DiCaprio sat down with The Hollywood Reporter and a handful of select film publications at the Hotel du Cap in Cannes on Saturday to discuss his upcoming environmental documentary "The 11th Hour." The film, which premiered in a special Out of Competition screening Saturday at the Festival de Cannes, uses a barrage of images and reams of interviews with the world's top environmental scientists to paint a bleak but still optimistic picture of the fate of our planet. "Hour" was directed by sister Nadia Conners and Leila Conners Petersen, who wrote the script with DiCaprio.

What was the most difficult thing for you in making this film?

DiCaprio: Trying to condense the vision of what these scientific experts are saying (about global warming) and trying to make it as clear and as emotionally moving as possible. Trying to condense a world of issues into an hour-and-a-half format in this film was the biggest challenge. But it was about giving them a platform where they didn't have to argue about the science. Because, and I keep stressing this, this is the overwhelming majority of the scientific community that believes in this. Not to have to be challenged about the science, about if their opinions were correct or if their opinions were valid. It was about them being able to express ideas and being able to give us, the public. Listen to the scientists and give us, the public, solutions for the future.

Q: People see films like "An Inconvenient Truth" and "The 11th Hour" and they wonder, 'What can I do'? What would you tell them?

A: It's voting, in a twofold way. You have voting at the booth for politicians that support green policies and endorsing by voting with your dollars. Endorsing new technologies, if you can, endorsing these companies to come up with cheap alternatives for the future. That's why personal action is important to a very large degree. I mean look at the sort of revolution with the Toyota Prius. I mean that has shown specifically to automakers that there is a demand for alternative vehicles and it has propelled the auto industry into the future with knowing that we can not go on with business as usual, with gas-guzzling vehicles. It's supply and demand ultimately.

Q: With "The 11th Hour" are you hoping to reach a different audience than Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" just because of who you are and the kind of attention this film will get because of your involvement with it?

A: "Yes, I guess you could call it a different audience. I mean, I didn't want to make this an overly political film, where just because of your political affiliation, you think you are somehow responsible for this and are somehow to blame. There are political overtones in the movie, we do point the finger. But ultimately, it is not about preaching to the choir, about reaching an audience that already gets it and already wants to become active. It's about, I suppose -- and this is just about me following the lead of what the scientists and the experts have been saying -- it's the cultural transformation that needs to happened. It's a swelling up from the ground level from people that are going to have to demand action. It goes beyond whether you are a democrat or republican in the United States. It goes beyond that. It goes into the realm of every politician having to be responsible because there is such a cultural awareness about global warming and environmental issues that they have to deal with it."

Q: Are you worried that, because you are a celebrity, people could dismiss this movie simply because of who you are?

A: "I am completely aware of the fact that being someone from quote-unquote Hollywood will garner certain amount of skepticism and criticism as why should we listen to this person? I wanted to pose myself as a concerned citizen, not as an expert. I ask the questions and allow these people (the scientists) to give the answers. But you can also talk about the Hollywood community and about how they have traditionally been a part of a lot of great movements in the United States, going back to the civil rights movement or the peace movement. I don't think there's nothing wrong with that. As long as I don't pretend to be somebody who does have a degree, you know what I mean? But rather as a concerned citizen. Hopefully a larger audience will watch the film as opposed to if I wasn't involved with it.

Q: The film doesn't pander to a populist level. You get into a lot of pretty complicated detail in the film.

A: Well that comes down to the fact that these are extremely complicated issues and can't be put into a format of predigested baby food that is spoon-fed (the audience). These are complicated issues to wrap your head around, and we knew that. But ultimately the most important thing to us was whether you were emotionally moved at the end of the movie. And on a personal level, I believe that has been accomplished. Yes, a lot of the science is very hard to wrap your head around. But I was very clear in the movie. I want the public to be very scared by what they see. I want them to see a very bleak future. I want them to feel disillusioned halfway through and feel hopeless. And then when we get into the entire section in the second half when we talk about cultural transformation and a new way of looking at things and the alternatives or green technology and all these things, you realize there is great hope and there are options on the table. And hopefully the audience is moved and galvanized to do something about it. Hopefully.