As an executive producer of “Virunga,” Leonardo DiCaprio wasn’t eligible to receive an Oscar when it competed for Best Documentary Feature. However, the TV academy has more expansive rules so he could take home an Emmy if the film wins Best Documentary or Nonfiction Special.
DiCaprio is a five-time also-ran at the Oscars. While this is his first Emmy nomination, he got his start in TV, appearing in the series “Parenthood” from 1990-1991 and then “Growing Pains” from 1991-1992 before his big-screen breakthrough in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” in 1993. Soon thereafter came leading roles in “The Basketball Diaries” and “Romeo + Juliet” before “Titanic” cemented his film stardom in 1997.
Now he produces projects as well and in that capacity he lent his support to “Virunga,” which documents the efforts to save mountain gorillas in a protected area of the Congo. While it lost the Oscar to “Citizenfour,” that film about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden competes in a separate contest: Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking. Could that open the door for a “Virunga” victory?
It won’t be a cakewalk as it vies against four entries from documentary powerhouse HBO: two biographies — “Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck” an d”Sinatra: All or Nothing At All” — as well as the timely “Case Against 8” that details the fight against California’s anti-gay marriage proposition, and the much-discussed “Going Clear” about the workings of the Church of Scientology.
But recent headlines could make “Virunga” the kind of film voters will rally behind. The recent poaching of Cecil the Lion in Zimbabwe by an American dentist has sparked widespread outrage and brought renewed attention to wildlife conservation in Africa.
Do you think “Virunga” will prevail and bring DiCaprio his first Emmy? Last fall, we talked to the film’s director, Orlando von Einsiedel; watch below to see what he had to say about working with DiCaprio on this labor of love.
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Photo: Leonardo DiCaprio at the Oscars in March, 2014. Credit: Jim Smeal/BEI/REX
Photo: “Virunga” poster. Credit: Netflix/Everett/REX