Tobey Maguire didn't have to go far when Leonardo DiCaprio called him about meeting to discuss an adaptation of "The Great Gatsby" with Baz Luhrmann.
"I happened to live next door to Leo at the time, so it wasn't a far journey," Maguire says. "I was like, 'Oh, yeah. Sure. I can be over in 30 seconds if that's good for you.'"
"The Great Gatsby" is the first film of note co-starring the two longtime pals. It's fitting, too, because they play the classic tandem of the desperate romantic Jay Gatsby (DiCaprio) and his lone friend, the narrator Nick Carraway (Maguire) — who, not unlike Maguire, lives adjacent to Gatsby.
Working together on a film is a long time coming for DiCaprio and Maguire. In a recent joint interview at the Plaza Hotel in New York, the two cheerfully reflected on their close friendship, flashing occasional glimpses of the same boyish competitiveness that first brought them together as child actors vying for the same parts.
"After I met Tobey at an audition, I felt like I wanted this guy to be my friend," recalls DiCaprio. "I remember driving back from school and he was doing 'Hot Rod Brown Class Clown' with Whoopi Goldberg outside Hollywood High. It was a high school. And I jumped out of my car in the middle of the scene, as they were shooting, practically. I was like, 'Tobey! Tobey! Tobey! Give me your number.' He was like, 'Yeah, who are you again?'"
That began some 25 years of a friendship that hasn't been warped by time or fame. They've remained steadfast while their careers ascended from frantically chasing parts in "Critters 3" (DiCaprio's film debut; Maguire got turned down) to being among Hollywood's top leading men.
They've taken different routes. DiCaprio broke out as a teen idol in "Titanic," star power he then used to tackle ambitious roles with top-tier directors like Martin Scorsese ("The Aviator," ''Shutter Island"), Steven Spielberg ("Catch Me If You Can") and Clint Eastwood ("J. Edgar"). Maguire built himself through acclaimed dramas ("The Ice Storm," ''Wonder Boys," ''The Cider House Rules") before landing the "Spider-Man" franchise.
"Every project we do, we talk about," says DiCaprio. "Every single choice I've made, I've talked to Tobey about and vice versa. We've had endless conversations about certain projects and argued with one another and supported one another along the way."
Maguire, 37, and DiCaprio, 38, both grew up in divorced families of modest means in Los Angeles.
"We both came from similar upbringings," says DiCaprio. "We had humble beginnings, let's put it that way. We both were these young, very enthusiastic, ambitious young men that really wanted to get our foot in the door."