LOS ANGELES—Saying the gift would immeasurably improve their understanding of the ineffable quality that makes certain big-screen stars positively radiate, researchers at the University of California Los Angeles announced Tuesday that A-list actor Leonardo DiCaprio has agreed to donate his it-factor to science.
Sources said the 40-year-old actor, known for his roles in such critically and commercially successful films as The Wolf Of Wall Street and Titanic, granted the team of experts at UCLA permission to remove and preserve his je ne sais quoi for study upon his death. According to the scientists, DiCaprio’s unprecedented donation will offer them new insights into the poorly understood phenomenon of real star power.
“Being able to conduct an in-depth examination of an it-factor of this magnitude will be an incredible boon to our field,” said lead researcher Dr. Stanley Udall, who for the past 30 years has investigated the complexities that differentiate stars from superstars. “A proven box-office draw like this comes along once, maybe twice in a generation, and to be given unfettered access to study his certain something is beyond our wildest dreams.”
“There appears to be some as-yet unknown underlying system that perfectly balances these various facets in such a way that makes it impossible to take one’s eyes off him from the second he comes into frame, even when he shares the screen with other handsome heartthrobs.”
“Through careful analysis, we may finally be able to precisely quantify how much women want him and men want to be him,” Udall added.
Once scientists remove DiCaprio’s it-factor, Udall said his team will isolate and closely inspect its base components to determine exactly how these parts work in concert to produce the indescribable, captivating quality that enables the actor to elevate even middling material, such as his role in The Great Gatsby, to the transcendent.
“In very basic terms, we believe Mr. DiCaprio’s it-factor is composed of several constituent elements: his effortless charm, his rakish mischievousness, and his quiet, understated confidence,” said Udall, who confirmed that while researchers are still not 100 percent certain what it is, they know DiCaprio has it. “However, there appears to be some as-yet unknown underlying system that perfectly balances these various facets in such a way that makes it impossible to take one’s eyes off him from the second he comes into frame, even when he shares the screen with other handsome heartthrobs.”
In addition to unraveling the exact mechanisms by which DiCaprio is able to steal every scene in which he appears, the scientists are optimistic they will discover the reason why certain stars’ it-factors—such as DiCaprio’s and George Clooney’s—only strengthen with age, while others’, such as Giovanni Ribisi’s, atrophy very early on in their careers.
Though the UCLA program has reportedly received similar donation pledges from actors with comparatively minuscule allure, including Josh Brolin and Casey Affleck, DiCaprio is by far the biggest name to contribute his it-factor. However, while DiCaprio’s gift will vastly increase scientific knowledge in regard to the phenomenon, Udall said the most invaluable data will be gathered when the star’s it-factor is compared to those of his contemporaries who lack that extra special something.
“Soon, we’ll be able to understand what gives Leo his live-wire intensity in contexts where others fall just short,” Udall said. “Why, for example, does he so easily command the limelight on-screen and off when Ryan Reynolds—who seems to have it all—leaves us cold? How does he consistently outshine the Fassbenders, the Hartnetts, and the Eckharts of the world on the red carpet? These are the questions that science has for years tried and failed to provide an answer to.”
Udall went on to explain that once DiCaprio’s it-factor has been studied and fully cataloged, the next step will be to synthetically recreate the quality in younger, less charismatic actors, potentially creating an entire generation of male leads who each possess a commanding silver-screen magnetism. However, he cautioned that such a breakthrough would require many more decades of research.
“I’m reluctant to promise miracles, but if analyzing Mr. DiCaprio’s it-factor allows us to make the leaps forward that we hope it will, we may one day be able to catapult someone as blah and humdrum as Robert Pattinson to undeniable leading-man status,” Udall said.