Robert De Niro’s furious row with Leonardo DiCaprio secured Titanic star’s first role

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The Godfather star returns to screens tonight as he stars opposite Zac Efron in Dirty Grandpa, which airs from 11.05pm on Channel 4. The 2016 American comedy film sees Efron play a lawyer who has to drive his grandfather to Florida during spring break, leading to a series of foul-mouthed, but hilarious, altercations. While the film was negatively received by some critics – with one even describing it as the worst ever made – Dirty Grandpa also earned a loyal fanbase thanks to its dark humour.

De Niro is at his filthy best, with the Academy Award winner’s brilliant character among the funniest he has portrayed.

Though De Niro has a knack for making audiences laugh, those starring opposite him have often felt the brunt of his infamous temper, including a then-aspiring actor DiCaprio.

DiCaprio became a major Hollywood star in the Nineties, thanks to his roles in films such as What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Romeo + Juliet and the blockbuster Titanic.

However, were it not for his first major film This Boy’s Life, released in 1993, his career on the silver screen may never have become as brilliant as it has – and this could be thanks to De Niro.

Speaking about his time on set for the biographical film, DiCaprio told Time Out: “I was 15 years old, and I remember every single detail…Everything was so new to me.”

He described seeing De Niro on set as being “one of the most influential experiences of my life” as he was able to witness the legend’s “dedication” to the craft.

This bond helped establish DiCaprio among the elite of Hollywood, but the star noted how he had a “culture shock” when it came to his first scenes with De Niro.

He recalled, in an interview with Deadline, that the film’s director Michael Caton-Jones apologised to him as a result of De Niro being “mean” when he was so young.

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DiCaprio replied: “Are you crazy, you were the greatest big brother I could ever have during my first giant cinematic process.

“You talked me through everything. You told me all the fundamental basics.”

This, for DiCaprio, was a massive experience because prior to filming, his only experience on set had been working on commercials and small-scale projects.

He also discussed the audition process, and how a heated row with De Niro secured him his breakthrough role, over a mustard jar.

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DiCaprio continued: “[De Niro]’s like, ‘Is it empty, is it empty?’ and I just stood up and threw my chair down, or something, and screamed at him, ‘No, it’s not empty.'”

He added: “And then [De Niro] had this smirk on his face, and just started slowly busting up, laughing in my face.

“And then he looked at everybody else, and the whole room started laughing.”

DiCaprio was convinced his chance for the part had gone.

And while he eventually secured the role, De Niro’s presence on set, and conviction in his skills, rubbed off the then-teen.

He concluded: “I remember how seriously he took everything, how focused he was, how he would play with.

“He’d just sit there, and you’d have to sometimes realise you were in the scene because you’re just watching him do an improv riff.”

Dirty Grandpa airs today on Channel 4 from 11.05pm.

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