Leonardo DiCaprio: Win called long overdue, but why does it matter?

DiCaprio, who won an Oscar for Best Actor for his work in 'The Revenant,' was viewed as long due for the prize after multiple nominations. Pop culture fans enjoy listing acclaimed actors who never won one, yet what importance does an Oscar have in the industry?

Mario Anzuoni/Reuters
Leonardo DiCaprio wins the Oscar for Best Actor for his work in 'The Revenant.'

Leonardo DiCaprio won his first Oscar at the 2016 Academy Awards Sunday night for his work in “The Revenant." The award is largely being viewed as a prize bestowed not just for DiCaprio’s appearance in that film, but for his career as a whole. 

DiCaprio won the Best Actor Oscar for playing Hugh Glass, a real-life figure who was attacked by a bear and who then had to survive in harsh conditions. 

The actor had previously been nominated several times before that, including for his work in the movies “The Wolf of Wall Street,” “Blood Diamond,” and “The Aviator.” 

The win has been mostly viewed by critics as long overdue. 

“Leonardo DiCaprio finally wins Academy Award,” BBC staff wrote of the news, while Deadline writer Joe Utichi wrote, “It might have been the night’s most predictable result, but Leonardo DiCaprio’s Best Actor win for his role in ‘The Revenant’ still felt like Oscar doing right by a guy nominated five times before.” 

For some actors, winning an Oscar after several nominations, or far into their career, can appear to be a commendation for a whole body of work rather than a single film – or for work he or she did before for which he or she was not honored. 

International Business Times writer Alfred Joyner wrote of DiCaprio’s past work, “Being overlooked [by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences] in these cases, plus many others, is the likely reason why he has won this time around. It was ‘Leo's time,’ as so many have remarked in the build up the ceremony; after many years of hard work in the industry, the Academy had to finally reward him for his efforts.” 

Actor names from Cary Grant to Samuel L. Jackson are regularly tossed out as acclaimed thespians who never won a statuette.

But the concern over when an actor gets an Oscar, or acclaimed actors who have never received one, goes back to one topic: why is receiving an Oscar important in the first place?

If an actor has already established a career, as DiCaprio has, argues Frank Pallotta of CNN, an Oscar win isn’t necessary. 

“With DiCaprio's résumé, the award may not change much,” Pallotta wrote. “He has already won multiple awards for his work, brought in over $6.7 billion at the worldwide box office, and is one of the most recognizable stars on the planet – going as far as to become an Internet meme. So if he does go home empty handed on Sunday, it's doubtful his reputation would be greatly impacted, if at all. Plus, he would find himself in the company of some of Hollywood's biggest names.” 

The legend of an Oscar – and winning one – is not likely to go away anytime soon, however. Because the Oscars have been around for decades, generations have grown up with the awards as their ideal.

Following this year's ceremony, DiCaprio himself spoke about how he wanted to work as an actor since he was a small child.

"To tell stories like this has been my dream ever since I was 4 years old," he said.

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