This was no mere press junket. This was a Leo press junket.
And the only thing racing harder than the 35-plus-mph winds across the Ritz-Carlton here over the weekend were press theories about why the star of the upcoming film "The Beach" wanted to be anywhere but.
As time would tell, though, Leonardo DiCaprio's intuition served him well.
After several days of preparation for the mega-media junket promoting its upcoming tropical adventure flick, 20th Century Fox publicists scrambled late Friday to move the interview area for DiCaprio from a grassy bluff overlooking the surf to an enclosed hotel suite that might as well have been in Beverly Hills.
As he sat snug and slick on a wicker chair inside one of the luxury hotel's 548 rooms, the film's director, Danny Boyle ("Trainspotting") and co-star Virginie Ledoyen braved gusty winds and intermittent rain as a steady stream of print, broadcast and online journalists showered them with questions aimed at solving one of the greatest mysteries in America today: What's Leo really like?
More than 100 entertainment reporters converged on the sprawling 55-acre resort, many, including Hollywood.com, as guests of Fox, for five-minute, one-on-one interviews with the actors and director. It's a typical practice for studios to make talent available to the media in such a manner, but it is atypical to do it in such grandiose fashion.
"I think it's a phenomenal amount of money," Boyle said, speculating on Fox's cost of putting up staff, talent, media and production personnel in rooms that normally go for about $625 per night. "Nobody creates wealth like America, and nobody spends it like America, either."
As part of the press trip, reporters were treated to a swank dinner and drinks at a seaside eatery Friday night and a luau complete with hula dancers Saturday night.
"Being British, we are quite kind of careful, we would never spend this kind of money, we would never do this kind of setup," added Boyle. "But it is very confident, and that's the thing you do admire Americans for -- they have a kind of confidence level which is probably insecurity, ultimately."
With DiCaprio headlining his first film since "Titanic" -- a film aimed squarely at the much-coveted teen and twentysomething set -- Fox has little to feel insecure about.
Set and filmed in Thailand, "The Beach" is the story of a trio of backpackers who journey to a secluded, forbidden island only to discover that even in paradise, personal conflict and petty jealousy are alive and well. Although reviews were positive after a screening Friday night, DiCaprio said he doesn't feel added pressure to have another ship come in at the box office.
"You have no control over it," the 25-year-old DiCaprio said. "I don't. And no other actor does. I tend not to think about that. I mean the only thing you can do is stay focused on what you're trying to say, you know, as far as this film is concerned, what I was trying to do, performance-wise."
So why did the actor request a change in venue for his press interviews? Said one publicist, "He thought the beach thing was cheesy."
"The Beach" opens Feb. 11.
(Editor's note: Visit Hollywood.com in the days ahead for more interviews and stories about "The Beach.")