DiCaprio chose Hallstrom

over more money and a role opposite Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker. 

  • Leonardo DiCaprio is a big star in Hollywood. But in 1993, he turned down a lot of money for a chance to play the autistic Arnie in Lasse Hallström’s ”What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”, with Johnny Depp.
  • Leonardo DiCaprio tells Variety he turned down ”more money than I ever dreamed of” for the chance of working with Swedish film director Lasse Hallström.
    In 1993, as a relatively unknown and untried actor, the 18-year old, DiCaprio was offered that money to take a role in the Disney film ”Hocus Pocus”, but decided he wanted to hold out for a small indie instead, one for which he hadn’t even auditioned yet: ”What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”.
    DiCaprio tells Variety that he was given a tape of a real-life child with a disability to prepare him for the audition for the role as the autistic Arnie, younger brother to Johnny Depp’s title character.
    He says he watched that tape for three days straight. Yet Hallström had concerns that DiCaprio was too handsome for the part, and to ensure he’d get it, DiCaprio spent a week at a center for special-needs children in Austin (where the film was later shot), and came to Hallström ”with a checklist of attributes for the character”. One of them included a habit of gesticulating with his fingers, which Hallström incorporated into Arnie.

  • Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio in Lassa Hallström's 1993 movie "What's Eating Gilbert Grape"
  • ”He just said, ’Okay kid, go for it.’” DiCaprio got an Oscar nomination for the part and the film became his breakout movie. Four years later came 'Titanic,' a movie that defined the actor's future.
    What happened to the kid who ended up with the part in the Disney film and all that money? The part of Max went to Omri Katz, whose career, according to the film site Imdb, ended with a short film in 2002.

  • Lasse Hallström went on to make over ten major Hollywood productions, most notably "The Cider House Rules" (1999) and "Chocolat" (2000). His first Swedish movie in many years was chosen to be Sweden's Oscar entry 2012: Sweden's entry for the 2012 Oscars .. not surprisingly, Hallström's first movie since moving back to Sweden, 'The Hypnotist

  • What's Eating Gilbert Grape - Official Trailer on youtube