Leonardo DiCaprio had a meteoric rise through Hollywood in the 1990s, ending the decade as one of the most bankable leading men in the business. He has lots of people to thank for his early career, and we now know that Sharon Stone is one of the big ones. In one of DiCaprio’s earliest roles, she actually paid his wages.
Sharon Stone wanted the up-and-coming DiCaprio to join her in the cast in one of the best Westerns of the ’90s, Sam Raimi’s bloody The Quick and the Dead. He had just earned an Oscar nod for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, but the studio didn’t buy into him for the role of Fee “The Kid” Herod, alongside Stone as gunslinger “The Lady”.
Stone revealed in 2021 that DiCaprio was the “only one who nailed the audition”, but the studio demanded she pay for him herself if she was so determined to cast him. She went ahead and did it, with DiCaprio recently telling E! News that he has “thanked her so many times”. He added: “I don’t know if I sent her an actual, physical thank you gift, but I cannot thank her enough.”
DiCaprio said Stone also advocated for Russell Crowe, who had never previously been in an American film, to get a role in The Quick and the Dead. She had been impressed by his performance as the leader of a neo-Nazi gang in Aussie thriller Romper Stomper.
“She said: ‘These are the two actors I want to work with’,” said DiCaprio. “It’s incredible. She’s been a huge champion of cinema and giving other actors opportunities, so I’m very thankful.”
The Quick and the Dead is an underrated Sam Raimi movie, arriving in the enormous shadow of Unforgiven’s complete about-turn for the Western genre. When you’re just a few years out from one of the best Clint Eastwood movies, it’s difficult to make an impact with any new movies. That’s likely why the studio was so reluctant to use young talent, though including DiCaprio and Crowe now looks masterful.
Watched today, it’s one of the best movies the genre produced in the ’90s, helped by the energy of its gifted young cast members, as well as veterans like Stone and Gene Hackman. It also gave us one of the most memorable and brutal headshots in movie history, which is about as quintessentially Raimi as anything could be.
For more on the future of the Western, check out our guides to Yellowstone season 5 part 2 and the Horizon release date. You can also find out why Clint Eastwood wanted to do a stunt aged 90 and learn why the Western has always been a genre for women too.