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How Leonardo DiCaprio’s dad landed role as ‘eccentric hippie’ in buzzy new movie

DiCaprio and his dad, George, both appear in Paul Thomas Anderson’s new coming-of-age film “Licorice Pizza.”
US actor Leonardo DiCaprio arrives for the 92nd Oscars at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California on February 9, 2020.Robyn Beck / AFP via Getty Images

Leonardo DiCaprio is sharing the big screen with his dad, George DiCaprio, for the first time in Paul Thomas Anderson’s new coming-of-age film “Licorice Pizza.”

The senior DiCaprio, 78, plays an eccentric hippie who owns a waterbed store in the movie, which is set in California’s San Fernando Valley in the 1970s, and also stars Cooper Hoffman, the son of late Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman, Alana Haim, Bradley Cooper, Sean Penn, Tom Waits and Anderson’s wife, former "Saturday Night Live" star Maya Rudolph.

Leonardo DiCaprio and his father, George DiCaprio, on Dec. 4, 2015.Getty Images

How the elder DiCaprio, a writer and former performance artist, ended up in the movie is a story unto itself. New York Times reporter Buchanan, who spoke with writer and director Anderson for a recent profile, shared outtakes from their chat on Twitter. In one, he revealed how DiCaprio landed the kooky role.

To hear Anderson tell it, he basically conjured up a character who looked exactly like DiCaprio. "I created a picture of a guy who owned a wig shop that sold these waterbeds, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. I kept saying, 'Who do I know who looks like this?'" he said.

"And like a bolt of lightning, I remember, like, 'Leo's dad looks exactly like this,'" he continued. “So I tracked him down, asked him if he'd ever be interested in being in a film. He said, 'Sure.'"

DiCaprio as a baby with his parents, George and Irmelin.Getty Images

But the similarities between Anderson's made-up hippie character and the Oscar winner's real-life father went even further than the director realized.

"I explained the scenario to him. He said, 'Sounds great. Did Leo tell you that I owned a water bed company? It was called Foggy Bottom," recalled Anderson.

Anderson figured the coincidence was a sign he had made a wise casting choice.

"It was one of those things. I said, 'Well, you're the right man for the job!'" he said.

Leonardo DiCaprio, 47, has previously credited his father with encouraging him to be pursue his acting dreams.

In 2016, the "Don't Look Up" star told Parade, "My dad always told me, ‘Go out there, son, and whatever you do, I don’t care if you’re successful or not, just have an interesting life."