In 1993, Leonardo DiCaprio—only 18 at the time—was given a choice. He could take a role in the high-budget comedy Hocus Pocus or take a chance… and star in the independent film What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.
Of course, the 39-year-old ended up picking Gilbert Grape—which earned him serious critical recognition—but to this day, he continues to question his judgment.
“I don’t know where I got the nerve,” Leo recently told Variety. “You live in an environment where you’re influenced by people telling you to make a lot of money and strike while the irons hot. But if there’s one thing I’m very proud of, it’s being a young man who was sticking to my guns.”
Even though he was offered, “more money than [he] could’ve dreamed of” for Hocus Pocus, his part in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape more than paid off. At 19, he became one of the youngest stars to nab an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor.
In What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Leo played a mentally handicapped teenager opposite Johnny Depp (who played the titular character), Juliette Lewis and Mary Steenburgen.
Since then, he has racked up three additional Best Actor Oscar noms—for The Aviator in 2005, Blood Diamond in 2007 and The Wolf of Wall Street this year.
Who knows if we’d be sitting on the edge of our seats for this year’s Academy Awards if he picked Hocus Pocus instead!