Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza is full of cameos from actors and industry professionals, including Leonardo DiCaprio’s father George.
Leonardo Dicaprio may not have been part of Licorice Pizza’s cast, but his father George DiCaprio made an incredible cameo in a connection to his own past. Although Paul Thomas Anderson is notable for having star-studded movies with the likes of Daniel Day-Lewis in Phantom Thread, Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman in The Master, Tom Cruise in Magnolia, and Mark Wahlberg in Boogie Nights, his film Licorice Pizza is led by two virtually unknown actors. As Alana Haim (of HAIM musical fame) and Cooper Hoffman (son of the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) bring Paul Thomas Anderson’s coming-of-age story to life, Licorice Pizza’s cast is supported by various cameos of famous actors and industry newcomers, including Leonardo DiCaprio’s father.
Now competing in well-regarded films with his dad, Leonardo DiCaprio is the type of world-class actor one would have expected to appear in Licorice Pizza alongside a list of cameos that includes Bradley Cooper, Sean Penn, and Tom Waits rather than the elder DiCaprio. Licorice Pizza may be the film debut of George DiCaprio, but he’s no stranger to working behind the camera, as he’s known for his executive producer credits on various documentaries. Additionally, George didn’t even have to audition for his Licorice Pizza role, as he was actually the man who partially inspired his own character.
Although only in a short scene, Leonardo DiCaprio’s father appears in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Licorice Pizza as Mr. Jack, a wig shop owner and waterbed salesman who inspired Gary to go into the same business. DiCaprio, clad in his dark beard, glasses, and suit, is seen in a wig shop, though he uses his saleswoman to help persuade men like Gary to purchase his water beds. While this seems like a random character for George DiCaprio’s acting debut, Mr. Jack couldn’t have gone to anyone other than George, who was a former waterbed salesman himself. Before going into documentary filmmaking, George had a waterbed business called “Foggy Bottom,” thus the inspiration for Gary’s “Soggy Bottom” line and the original working title of Licorice Pizza.
According to The New York Times, when trying to craft Licorice Pizza’s waterbed salesman, Paul Thomas Anderson began picturing what this sort of man would look like, and had an epiphany when he realized the person he envisioned was movie star Leonardo DiCaprio’s father. Anderson then asked DiCaprio whether he would consider playing the role, and George agreed, later asking PTA whether Leo had told him that he once owned a water bed company himself. As funny as it is that Leonardo DiCaprio’s father landed a cameo as a waterbed salesman in a critically acclaimed movie, the true story of his role is even better considering Paul Thomas Anderson had no prior knowledge of him having had the same career.
While Leonardo DiCaprio’s father getting a cameo in Licorice Pizza is already exciting, the implications of the film’s release compared to Leo’s own 2021 movie make it all the more interesting. In his 2021 film debut, George DiCaprio is part of an Oscars-frontrunner arthouse movie, while Leonardo Dicaprio is leading the most divisive movie of the entire year, Don’t Look Up. Licorice Pizza and Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up also had their wide releases within a day of each other, as Leo’s film dropped on Netflix on Christmas Eve while George’s expanded in theaters on Christmas Day. Considering both films are apt to make Oscars campaigns, Licorice Pizza’s cameo may stir an awards competition for their respective movies among the DiCaprio family.
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Licorice Pizza: The True Story Behind Leonardo DiCaprio’s Father’s Cameo