Despite what many people claimed in the build-up to Leonardo DiCaprio finally securing an Oscar, no actor has a perfect filmography. It’s the nature of the beast, you can’t hit a six with every ball and sometimes you’ll simply find yourself holding fool’s gold in search of the real thing. However, there is one film that proves such a paradigm of the mantra that ‘you learn more from your failures than your successes’ that DiCaprio and his co-star Tobey Maguire actually got it banned.
Back in 1993, DiCaprio and Maguire first starred together in This Boy’s Life. This collaboration crystallised a friendship between the budding pair, and they looked to celebrate that bond with a film that explored the nature of growing older amid the guidance of friendship. Thus, there is a sense of irony that it all ended up in court. As Dale Wheatley, one of the five friends involved in the writing would later tell the New York Post: “We believed we were making a film with our friends and foolishly didn’t pay attention to paperwork.”
The condemned movie in question was called Don’s Plum after the restaurant where it takes place in its entirety. The premise is as simple and unfocused as you might expect from a group of friends making a slapdash film over food. Taking inspiration from My Dinner with Andre, the film is a wavering realist discussion between acquaintances tarred with the arthouse tendency to play off nihilism and misery for nuance and mirth that ultimately never arrives.
However, this slightly dower slant is not why DiCaprio and Maguire didn’t want it to see the light of day. The issue with a film so naturalistic is that sometimes the line between the actors and their actual selves is blurred. Thus, when DiCaprio yells, “I’ll fucking throw a bottle at your face, you goddamn whore,” a less scrupulous viewer might fail to see it as fiction.
All the while, Maguire discusses his masturbation habits with the same unhindered openness as, well, as an adolescent wanker, in every which way, surrounded by his friends. Thus, it seems self-evident why the future stars didn’t want their careers to become marred by these ad-libbed characters who could easily be mistaken for mere drunken versions.
This line was blurred even further by the fact that the friends at the dinner are formed of a sort of frat house of former child stars and those on the brink of fame using their footing to exploit dates out of a rotating slew of women who they bring to Don’s Plum every week. That is an inadvertent connection that they didn’t want people to make.
Casting even further cloud on the murk of the movie’s situation is that for some of the filmmakers behind the movie, there was a slight reality to the depiction. By all accounts, some of the crew were enamoured with the fame that Maguire and DiCaprio held and as such were desperate to be around them in the hopes that it would help to catapult their own Hollywood aspirations.
The problem was that they were a little too desperate. Thus, no script was officially formed, and the paperwork followed suit on the slipshod front. Therefore, when the troubling result came to the fore, DiCaprio and Maguire were able to take legal action banning its release in the US and Canada on grounds that they signed up to star in a short film, but it was cut as a feature-length release.
Condemned to the ash heap of history for decades, as the stardom of the leads reached dizzying heights, the film is now receiving more column inches as the internet and streaming redefine censorship in its own libertarian way. As Wheatley told Fox News: “While the world celebrates — and certainly Americans celebrate — his great achievements in cinema, he chooses to use an iron fist to suppress the work of many other artists including him in a film made 20 years ago.”
Now, that closely guarded film can be found on YouTube where the peculiarity can be pored over in its own oddly era-defining way. And perhaps it is the reason why DiCaprio’s career choices have been so carefully considered ever since.