The Story Of How Leonardo DiCaprio’s Dad Ended Up In Licorice Pizza (And How Leo Reacted)

Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street
(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Paul Thomas Anderson is back with Licorice Pizza, a critically-acclaimed coming-of-age film about an unlikely romance in the San Fernando Valley in 1973. The movie stars the late Philip Seymour Hoffman’s son, Cooper Hoffman, and Haim band member Alana Haim in their debut acting roles. But there’s another person who made Licorice Pizza their first film role: Leonardo DiCaprio’s dad. Random, I know, bu wait until you’ve heard the story behind the role.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Paul Thomas Anderson haven't collaborated on a movie yet, so it's amazing that the Oscar-winning actor’s father, George DiCaprio, beat him to it. The old DiCaprio, a 78-year-old writer and publisher, has never delved into the Hollywood world like his son but, in Licorice Pizza, he plays the small role of Mr. Jack. The New York Times’ Kyle Buchanan took to Twitter to provide share part of his recent chat with Anderson, during which the director shed some light on the subject:

I created a picture of a guy who owned a wig shop that sold these water beds, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. I kept saying, ‘Who do I know that looks like this?’ And like a bolt of lightning, I remember like, ‘Leo’s dad looks exactly like this.’ So I tracked him down, asked him if he’d ever be interested in being in a film. He said ‘Sure.’

Licorice Pizza follows 15-year-old Gary Valentine (played by Cooper Hoffman) who meets Alana Haim’s Alana Kane, a 25-year-old photographer’s assistant. The pair begin a love affair that yes, includes the selling of waterbeds at some point. The filmmaker continued to tell the story, with a wild connection between George DiCaprio and his role: 

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.’ It was one of those things. I said, ‘Well, you’re the right man for the job.’

How did PTA know he’d correctly cast Leo’s dad into a profession he once had? I’d chalk it up to the filmmaker's eye for finding the right people to embody the roles he conjures up in his movies. For example, he chose two unknown actors to play the leads of Licorice Pizza and now each of them are receiving breakout praise. 

Funny enough, Leonardo DiCaprio has a movie of his own coming out on the same day as his father's. He’ll star in Adam McKay’s satire, Don’t Look Up alongside the likes of Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Jonah Hill, Tyler Perry and Timothée Chalamet. (You can check out CinemaBlend’s review of Don’t Look Up ahead of its release). When celebrating the movie at its New York City premiere, he shared his reaction to ET

I haven't seen it yet but my dad, George DiCaprio, has a cameo in a Paul Thomas Anderson movie! Today was a good day.

Licorice Pizza seems stuffed with interesting and offbeat industry picks. Bradley Cooper is portraying American film producer of the ‘70s Jon Peters, Steven Spielberg’s daughter, Sasha, has a small role as well as does Jack Nicholson’s son, Ray. These are deep cuts we wouldn’t have necessarily noticed prior. But now that you know, check out Licorice Pizza in theaters December 25 and see if you can spot George DiCaprio.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.