Final Oscar voting begins today and ends on February 25th. It’s the last push. It’s the fourth quarter. And Leonardo DiCaprio is coming on. (We’ll be announcing our annual contest next week and I want you to win the designer bag and all the other bonuses that come in the prize package so you need to start thinking about your Oscar ballots.) As you know, Leo is up against Matthew McConaughey, the presumed favourite because he’s taken everything up to this point…

But Leo’s been working behind the scenes. His campaign has been underground…but a campaign nonetheless, the most enthusiastic, aggressive campaign he has ever mounted. Leo wants it this time. He wants it bad. If you have doubts about this you should read his new interview with Variety. I finally had a chance to last night.

First of all, consider that it’s Variety, a trade paper. A lot of Academy members will be reading it this weekend. Which is why he was so focused on the messaging. It’s smart messaging too. McConaughey’s approach has been to sell himself on his redirect: I was wasting my time on work that was beneath me but I chose to re-strategise and re-devote myself to the art.

Leo’s approach?

I was ALWAYS devoted to the art. My body of work speaks to that. I don’t do movies like Fool’s Gold. I make out with Kate Hudson, but I don’t make movies with her. I am The One. I didn’t need to come back because I never stepped. 

And there’s more. Let’s break down Leo’s agenda:

His respect for his predecessors and gratitude for being part of the community:
“That was when I began to understand that with acting — what’s the quote? ‘We stand on the shoulders of giants?’ I saw what had been accomplished before me and I just went, ‘Holy shit.’ ”

He didn’t sell out:
“I don’t know where the hell I got the nerve,” he says now. “You live in an environment where you’re influenced by people telling you to make a lot of money and strike while the iron’s hot. But if there’s one thing I’m very proud of, it’s being a young man who was sticking to my guns.”

He’s a team player. He never puts himself first:
“I’m very active in putting a team together, deciding what the focus of the story should be. Because if the right people aren’t chosen from the start, a great idea can turn out very different,” he notes. “But once you give it over to a filmmaker, you have to allow them to do their thing.”

He is The Exception. The Child Star who never, ever stumbled (at least not that we know of):
“I saw all the moral decay you could, beginning at 2 years old,” he notes. “But I also got to see how the other half lived. I could see that this other world was out there. And if I could only get my shot, I would never waste the opportunity. That mentality and that gratitude are still in me.”

He looks at the sunset and admires the nature:
“Wow, that’s gorgeous.”

He can do anything…except sing. Which is understandable because that just means he’s not perfect and not claiming to be:
Years earlier, he met with Luhrmann about the role in “Moulin Rogue!” that eventually went to Ewan McGregor. “To be honest, I’m not really prepared to do a musical, simply because I think I have a pretty atrocious voice,” he notes. “But we had a friendly thing where it was me and him and a piano player, and we tried to sing a song together. It didn’t go too well. I think it was ‘Lean on Me,’ and when I hit the high note, he just turned to me.” At this point, DiCaprio affects Luhrmann’s Australian accent, “ ‘Yes, D, I don’t know if this conversation should continue.’ ”

As for his love life, Leo hasn’t been seen with Toni Garrn in a few weeks. Deliberate? His preference for models has dominated discussion about him for years, and also at the Golden Globes. Right now, we’re not supposed to think of him as the dude who only hooks up with 20 year old mannequins. Right now, he’s the Ultimate Actor.

Now does he get your vote?

Click here to read the full piece in Variety.