Leonardo DiCaprio's new film is making the international diamond industry nervous, and the 32-year-old two-time Oscar nominee says he never anticipated such an uproar.
"Blood Diamond," which hits theaters Dec. 8, examines the multi-million-dollar strip mining business that fueled Sierra Leone's devastating civil war in the 1990s.
After four months on location in Africa, DiCaprio sits down with ABC News Radio's David Alpert and a few other reporters to reflect on the controversial film and on filming in Mozambique -- a country where four out of 10 people are said to have HIV or AIDS.
Q: Did you anticipate the voracity of the response of the international diamond industry against this film? They seem to be mounting a campaign against it.
DICAPRIO: I didn't anticipate it, no, but, you know, when you approach situations like this, this is, these are things that are based on real events, you know? And we're depicting a specific time in recent history where, you know, these diamonds resulted in a lot of civil unrest in these countries. So, I had never anticipated, no, that it would be this intense, by any means.
Q: What was your knowledge of this problem before doing the movie, and how much did you learn?
DICAPRIO: I think I was like anybody else, you know, I heard whispers of it, but until I got there and until I read the script and started doing the research, I didn't really quite understand the immense impact these, uh, you know, that the diamonds had had on certainly Sierra Leone, and other places in Africa.
So it was, you know -- I certainly heard the Kanye West song, for example, and I heard, you know, bits of it in conversation, but it really wasn't until I got to Africa and heard the first-hand accounts and started to read the books that I really learned what was really going on, or what really had happened.
Q: Leonardo, what was the motivation for you to do this movie, was it the social message? And also, talk about the transition from being a kid to an adult.
DICAPRIO: First off, on the script, it uh, it was such a powerful character, it was such a powerful storyline, and that's what you look for first.
I mean . . . I wasn't personally going out seeking, you know, films with a social or political message to it, just to do it for the sake of doing it, you know? There has to have this entertainment value, it has to be a good movie and it has to, you know, convey a message without the audience feeling like they're being preached to. And I felt that this script accomplished that.
And to me, it was very representative of, you know, a huge sort of issue in the world today about corporate responsibility and what these corporations do. And certainly, you know, Africa's been a prime target for it, all the way to gold and rubber and all kinds of other resources. And here was this character who really represented somebody who was exploiting people less fortunate than him, dealing in the black market and not really being conscious of the world he lived in.
And I just felt it was a really powerful character. I thought the dynamic between Djimon Hounsou's character and my character was a real -- it was based on an earlier script and it was really [director] Ed Zwick and Marshall [producer Marshall Herskovitz] who learned about the diamond trade and brought these political aspects to the story, but in a way that I really didn't feel was preachy, in a way that I felt was really authentic, you know?