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Leonardo DiCaprio Compares Shutter Island To Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory, But After Reading His Comments, They Make Total Sense

 Leonardo DiCaprio/Gene Wilder.
Leonardo DiCaprio/Gene Wilder.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese have made several movies together and while Shutter Island may not be considered the best Scorsese movie or the best Leonardo DiCaprio movie, it is without a doubt, the most unusual in their history of collaboration and perhaps the most worthy of discussion. It’s a strange noir film that likely needs to be seen more than once in order to fully appreciate it. It’s like a few other projects in that way, but Leonardo DiCaprio thinks it has something in common with Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. And honestly, he’s not wrong.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese recently came together to discuss their movies for Letterboxd, and while the entire conversation is worth watching for any movie fan, perhaps the most interesting part came when the two discussed Shutter Island. Scorsese talked about the noir detective movies that inspired DiCaprio’s character. DiCaprio talked about the way that, in some ways, pretending to be one of the characters from those movies is exactly what his character is doing. The actor said…

I remember watching those films and realizing I am sort of somebody that’s embodying or trying to be one of those sort of tough, hardened noir detectives. But you realize the whole movie’s – to watch it a second time – it’s all a farce. Everybody’s actors around him. He’s like doing a one-man show, so to speak, in that movie.

Shutter Island’s ending is absolutely wild, and while I can be somewhat vague about it for anybody who hasn’t seen the film, the movie does make it clear early on that things are not entirely as they seem and that something strange is going on. This is where DiCaprio compares his character to Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, as both men are the central figure in a bizarre situation that exists entirely for them. DiCaprio explained…

I believe it was a glass, and then the glass disappears, and then people, the guards, are kind of rolling their eyes. And how, like a lot of the guards are sort of bored, and they’re going along with some ridiculous like high school play! But everyone’s kind of faking it. Reminded me of like – I was watching Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Gene Wilder. Gene Wilder’s sort of sarcastic with every one of these kids and people. But you have to watch the second time to realize all the players around me are essentially playing and catering to my character’s whims.

There are certainly some differences between the two characters. Willy Wonka is fully in control of his contrived situation, whereas DiCaprio’s Teddy is not in control, at least not willingly. But it’s certainly true that everything revolves around them. Watching both movies a second time makes it clearer just what is really going on. You see better on a rewatch just what is really going on.

And of course, both movies are a bit fantastical. There’s an unreality to them both, which is part of what keeps the audience unclear on just what’s going on and what the motivations are. Scorsese said…

And I thought that was the beauty of trying to make that film, where we kept the audience untethered, so to speak. People tend to want a neatly wound-up story. Everybody changes their arcs to the character. But what if life is not like that? What if we can make a work of art, good, bad, or indifferent, that doesn’t reflect that?

I’m not sure that Shutter Island and WIlly Wonka and the Chocolate Factory would work as a double feature, but there is a running theme. DiCaprio and Socrsese’s latest feature, Killers of the Flower Moon is now available to Apple TV+ subscribers. DiCaprio and Scorsese don’t have a project together on the 2024 movie schedule, but it’s a safe bet we’ll see them working together again down the road.