Did You Know Leonardo DiCaprio Starred in the World’s Most Expensive Advertisement?

Leonardo DiCaprio has starred in dozens of movies during his long and illustrious career. DiCaprio has been nominated for the coveted Best Actor category at the Academy Awards five times, winning his Oscar in 2016 for “The Revenant”. The Los Angeles native commands up to $20 million per movie, so how did DiCaprio find himself featuring in a 16-minute advertisement in 2015 that remains the most expensive advert ever produced?

Anyone who visits the cinema knows they must sit through dozens of advertisements for upcoming movies and other products before the feature starts. If you headed to any Chinese or Hong Kong cinema from late October 2015, you would have been treated to a 16-minute advert known simply as “The Audition.” While most people would not be happy sitting through such an extended advertisement, “The Audition” featured Robert De Niro, DiCaprio, and a cameo appearance from Brad Pitt, who were all directed by the legendary filmmaker Martin Scorsese, so it is safe to say it captured movie-goers’ attentions.

A Budget Envied By Hollywood Movies

Scorsese was handed a staggering $70 million budget for “The Audition” despite it lasting a mere 16 minutes. To put that into context, the award-winning World War II epic “Saving Private Ryan” had a similar budget and spanned 170 minutes. Why did “The Audition” have such a substantial budget and an all-star cast? Because it was designed to get around China’s strict laws regarding gambling advertisements in mainland China. Laws prohibit advertising the best online betting sites or brick-and-mortar casinos, but they can feature in movies. That is correct, “The Audition” is a long-winded advert for a Macau casino.

Gambling giants Melco Resorts & Entertainment spent $3.2 billion building Studio City, a casino in Macau, China. Melco’s management wanted as many people as possible to know about the new property, but the aforementioned Chinese gambling laws prohibited them from spreading the word to residents of mainland China. Being unable to reach an estimated 1.1 billion potential customers legally sent Melco’s marketing department into overdrive, and “The Audition” was born.

Since watchmaker Bulova paid a mere $9 for placing the first-ever advertisement on NBC on June 27, 1941, companies have clambered over themselves to have their products and services shown on television and in movie theatres worldwide. In 2004, luxury brand Chanel paid an astronomical $33 million for the famous advert “Chanel No.5 The Film,” a 180-second movie starring Nicole Kidman alongside Rodrigo Santoro. It was a huge success that Melco wanted first to replicate, then better, so they hired Scorsese and his star-studded cast.

What Is The Plot of “The Audition?”

“The Audition” revolves around actors Robert De Niro and Leonardo DiCaprio meeting director Martin Scorsese at the City of Dreams Resort in Manila, another casino Melco owns. De Niro and DiCaprio are auditioning for the lead role in a film about a ruthless businessman who runs an international casino chain.

The trio then heads to the newly opened Studio City in Macau, where De Niro and DiCaprio exhaust Scorsese with their cases as to why they should be chosen for the part in the fictional movie. The chemistry between De Niro and DiCaprio is electric, with both actors trying to one-up each other, resulting in several humorous exchanges and insults.

The three men go to Japan, where Scorsese informs De Niro and DiCaprio that neither is suitable for the upcoming role, and the two actors part company with Scorsese. Later that evening, De Niro and DiCaprio ponder why neither was selected when they see Scorsese meeting with Hollywood A-lister Brad Pitt. Pitt delivers an awful audition, which seems to bamboozle Scorsese, leaving Di Niro and DiCaprio to enjoy their time together in Japan.

“The Audition” has plenty of product placement throughout its run-time, as one would expect, but none of it is “in your face,” so to speak. Both actors refer to some of the services Studio City visitors can enjoy and essentially take viewers on a guided tour throughout the $3.2 billion property. However, the actual footage of Studio City is a 3D render because the casino and hotel were not completed at the time of filming.

De Niro and DiCaprio walked away with $13 million for the two-day shoot, which is not bad work if you can get it!

De Niro and DiCaprio are Scorsese Favorites

“The Audition” was not the first time Scorsese had worked with De Niro or DiCaprio, although it was the first time all three had worked together. De Niro has starred in ten Scorsese films, while DiCaprio has been Scorsese’s leading man in six. De Niro and DiCaprio have played alongside each other twice, first in “This Boy’s Life” (1993) and again in “Marvin’s Room” (1996).

Scorsese cast De Niro and DiCaprio together for the first time in 2023 for the movie “Killers of the Flower Moon.” Set in 1920s Oklahoma, “Killers of the Flower Moon” focuses on a series of murders of Osage members after oil was discovered on tribal land.

The film was distributed by Paramount Pictures and Apple Original Films, the latter through Apple TV+, and received critical acclaim while grossing over $156 million globally. DiCaprio’s incredible portrayal of Ernest Burkhart has resulted in his nomination for the Best Performance in a Motion Picture – Drama category at the 81st Golden Globe Awards. At the same time, De Niro was nominated for Best Supporting Performance in a Motion Picture. In total, “Killers of the Flower Moon” has received seven nominations, trailing only “Oppenheimer” (8) and “Barbie” (9).

Here is to our hero receiving a well-deserved fourth Golden Globe when the latest edition of the lavish awards ceremony rolls around on January 7, 2024.