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DiCaprio: "Shutter Island" Was Intense

Leonardo DiCaprio has a good thing going with Martin Scorsese.

Their first three movies together, "Gangs of New York," "Aviator" and "The Departed" won nine Oscars and brought in close to $700 million at the box office. Now, they're at it again with their latest collaboration, the intense psychological thriller, "Shutter Island."

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DiCaprio sat down with Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith to dicuss his chilling role.

In the film, DiCaprio plays Teddy Daniels, a U.S. Marshal investigating a missing person case on Shutter Island, a highly-secured mental institution.

While investigating the case, Daniels' mind is also put to the test. He becomes driven by "ulterior motives" and discovers that there's something about his past that connects him with Shutter Island.

"It's kind of a cathartic story, because it fragments in different directions and we start to understand these little short segments of who Teddy is and why he has such an intense connection with this place," DiCaprio explained.

Photos: Leonardo DiCaprio
Photos: Martin Scorsese

"How do you get ready for something like this?" Smith asked.

"Preparation-wise, a lot of documentaries. Historically, for me, there's only so much I can extract from books, from reading. I like to have visual stimulation," he said. "So to see a lot of these patients during that time period, a lot of the practices that were used on these patients that were often barbaric, and getting a back story on this time period - the 1950's. The documentaries are really key."

Tackling this disturbing yet fascinating past also requires an authentic backdrop. "Shutter Island" was shot in an abandoned mental institution in Medfield, Mass.

"It was dilapidated and -- I don't want to say you felt the ghosts, because that would be a little bit pretentious, but you felt this weird sense of confinement there," he said.

According to DiCaprio, "Shutter Island" is a scary movie, but not in the traditional sense.

"I describe it as more of a Hitchcockian-style thriller, a psychological thriller, gothic horror. Because I think that maybe if young audiences go in and expect to jump out of their seat every five minutes, it's not that type of movie. It is, at the end of to me, it is a drama. That's what it is to me," he said.

Shooting "Shutter Island" mimicked the intensity of the script.

"I was drained. I was absolutely drained. So much of this story is -- it is a jigsaw puzzle," DiCaprio said.

As old cinematic colleagues, Scorsese trusts DiCaprio's acting ability and lets him take the reins with his character.

Collaborating with Scorsese for the fourth time has been a humbling experience for the multi-faceted actor.

"Well, I look at every opportunity working with him as a true gift. I don't know if it will ever happen again, but for right now, I feel truly blessed. I really do," he said. "We've developed a trust over the years and that's something that can only really happen through time."

DiCaprio has become very comfortable in his own skin and his acting skills are at their peak, Smith pointed out.

Is DiCaprio's acting getting better with age or confidence?

"The truth of the matter is that I've always known ever since I was a very young man the type of work that I wanted to attempt to do. You see movies at 14 and 15 years old, you see your heroes up on screen, you say I could never do something like that. I could never do something that good," he explained. "So that's the only thing that really fuels me to keep going because I never feel like I've reached what my heroes have reached on cinema. But hopefully I'm getting closer."

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