As anyone who knows me knows, I’m a big fan of Summer Glau. I first watched her when I watched Joss Whedon’s “Firefly” for the first time after getting interested in it from a review of the show by YouTuber JeremyJahns. While I have not seen everything she has done, upon watching Summer on the show “Firefly”, I almost instantly knew that I had come across someone special, someone with exceptional talent (and exceptional beauty, but that’s unimportant). After watching more and more of her work, I determined that Summer Glau is bar none my favorite actress of the many talented actresses I know of. On a related note, one of my favorite actor’s is no doubt Leonardo DiCaprio. He, like Summer, is truly talented. He has no doubt been acting longer than Summer has and has gotten much more wide recognition for his talents. Yeah, this is kinda sad since I personally believe Summer deserves a lot more recognition as well, but Leonardo is no doubt exceptionally talented.
The reason I mention this is because a while back, I began to notice some striking similarities between these two gifted performers, similarities that I decided cannot be sheer coincidence. Recently, Chris, one of the people who works on this site, asked me if I could write this article and explain my reasons for thinking this way. Seeing as I love this website (how could I not?), I figured, “Why not?”
What I am going to do today is present you with all the reasons strange coincidences and similarities I have found between these two actors that convince me that Summer should be considered the female equivalent of Mr. DiCaprio. I understand that some of these may be seen as minor or even irrelevant things, but when you stack them all on top of each other, the similarities become too numerous to not at least consider. With that said, here we go.
1) Both actors often play characters that are very intelligent and/or mentally unwell, violent, or dangerous.
The characters played by Leonardo and Summer often range from sophisticated and intelligent to flat-out crazy, reckless or dangerous in some way.
For example, Summer Glau got her major start as River Tam (above left) on Joss Whedon’s Firefly, a brilliant teenage girl with psychic abilities. However, tampering with her brain has led to her becoming dangerous and, in the nicest way possible, insane, so much so that she often displays serious acts of violence on other characters, ranging from simply kicking their asses with awesome fighting skills to slashing them across the chest with knives. Summer has also portrayed Tess Doerner (above middle), a paranoid schizophrenic (who also displays psychic abilities) on the drama series The 4400. And of course, she is perhaps most famous for her role as Cameron (above right), a Terminator sent to protect the Connor family in Josh Friedman’s Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. If a Terminator cannot be classified as any of these, you clearly did not see the “dangerous” criteria.
Now, Leonardo DiCaprio also has shown a tendency to play characters who are intelligent and/or have mental issues. In Martin Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street (above left), DiCaprio plays Jordan Belfort, a real-life New York stockbroker who became rich through very shady means. Belfort in the movie is portrayed as clearly an intelligent man, yet he is also shown as being heavily addicted to drugs (specifically Quaaludes), which often leads to him acting noticeably violent and crazy, as well as being an all-around scumbag to many of his peers even when NOT under the influence of drugs. In Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained, DiCaprio plays Calvin J. Candie (above middle), a violent, racist, and clearly mentally unwell slave owner. Also, in Lasse Hallström’s What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, DiCaprio (in one of his first major film roles), plays Arnie Grape (above right), a developmentally-disabled young boy. Yes, I would classify “developmentally disabled” as having “mental issues”. Now, Leo has also done other roles where his character is mentally uneven, but at the risk of spoilers for these works, I will not list any of them (the ones I’ve listed already make it blatantly obvious from the beginning that DiCaprio’s character is not mentally well).
2) Both actor’s first critically acclaimed roles were of a youth with mental issues who is cared for by their older brother.
This sort of goes back to what I said about both playing mentally-damaged characters, but specifically, they have both also played a mentally-uneven character who is cared for by their older brother. In What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, as I’ve said, Leonardo plays Arnie Grape, who is developmentally disabled and is cared for by his older brother Gilbert, played by Johnny Depp. The role earned DiCaprio his first Academy Award nomination. Now, what OTHER mentally-uneven younger sibling who is cared for by their brother do we know of? Okay, Raymond Babbitt in Rain Man, but this list isn’t called “Is Summer Glau the Female Dustin Hoffman”. And of course, Dr. Simon Tam has to watch over his sister River and comfort her whenever things go wrong, which happens fairly often in Firefly/Serenity.
3) Both actors had their most well-received (and arguably, most famous) role come in their early 20s.
Summer Glau was 21 years old when she portrayed the character that helped grab my interest in her for the first time, that being River Tam on Firefly. Leonardo DiCaprio was 23 when he starred in James Cameron’s Titanic and grabbed the attention of the world and won the hearts of all its women (and the spite of all the men). Coincidentally, both of these productions involve “ships” (a spaceship for Firefly and the titular ocean liner for Titanic) that at some point end up in a predicament that puts them in danger of being wrecked. In the Firefly episode “Out of Gas”, the Serenity experiences mechanical problems and is almost completely wrecked by the events of the episode. The only exception is that the Titanic actually IS ruined in this experience. Don’t worry; that is only a spoiler if you slept through your history class in high school... okay, maybe I did wreck the movie for you.
4) Both are most well-known for a specific genre.
Leonardo DiCaprio has become most well-known for his biographical films and films based on true stories. He of course first gained the world’s attention after starring in the immensely successful Titanic, based around the infamous sinking of the titular RMS Titanic. He has since gone on to star in many movies based on real events or real people (The Aviator, The Basketball Diaries, Catch Me If You Can, J. Edgar, The Wolf of Wall Street, etc.) Summer Glau is of course an icon of the science fiction genre thanks to roles such as River Tam, Tess Doerner, Cameron, Bennett Halverson (Dollhouse), and many others. But this segues brilliantly into my next point.
5) Both are immensely versatile.
Both actors have shown to be very versatile with their acting ability, despite often being typecast in their most well-known genre. Honestly, you could name any type of character and I could probably picture either actor playing that role. I could imagine Summer Glau playing just about any type of character you can think of, as I could with Leonardo DiCaprio.
Think about it: Summer Glau has not only played River Tam (above left), a psychic, crazy and violent teenage girl, but she has played a paranoid schizophrenic, a kick-ass LARPer (Knights of Badassdom), a Terminator, and an adorably cheerful elf from Santa’s workshop (Help For The Holidays, above right), and I can buy her in any of these roles despite how vastly different they are. I mean, dude, of what I’ve seen of her work thus far, Help for the Holidays is probably my second favorite performance Summer has given behind Firefly. I mean, isn’t it funny to think that the person who so brilliantly portrayed a crazy psychic teenager who can kill you with her mind AND played a Terminator who could probably break your neck with one swift move can also so effectively portray a character this adorably cute and lovable?
On the flip side, Leonardo DiCaprio has played a charming man from Wisconsin (Titanic, above left), a shady con-artist (Catch Me if you Can, above middle), and a complete jackass stockbroker (The Wolf of Wall Street, above right), all believably. Admit it; when you first saw Titanic, did you ever expect to see this handsome, charming guy go on to play a character as crazy and jerk-ish as Jordan Belfort is in the movie? I wouldn’t have.
I don't know why it wouldn't, but I just wanna be sure, because I wanted to mention it.I don't know why it wouldn't, but I just wanna be sure, because I wanted to mention it.Now, as with all actors, there are of course exceptions to what I’ve said. I mean, I honestly could not find DiCaprio believable in the role of Calvin Candie in Django Unchained because I cannot see a guy this likeable playing a character so horrible and unlikeable. I mean, yes, I just said he can play Jordan Belfort believably, but Calvin Candie is a whole different level of jackass, a level I don’t think someone like DiCaprio can quite capture. I also don’t expect to see Summer Glau in The Expendables 4 anytime soon; she’d probably be out of place in my opinion. I mean, I love to be proven wrong in matters like this, but it’d be kinda weird to see her in a movie like that. Then again, I hate the idea of there even being an Expendables 4 after the apparent train wreck that was The Expendables 3, so I guess that doesn’t matter anyway.
6) Whatever the role is, neither ever half-asses it.
No matter what role Leo or Summer is in, you can always tell that they are giving it their all in the performance. You can’t say this about all actors. With many actors, if given a role that allows little to work with, they will simply not put forth effort. But certain actors, such as Leonardo or Summer, will always try to have fun with the role and always put their best effort into it no matter what the role is.
For example, Gwen from Knights of Badassdom (pictured above) is a pretty simple character in my opinion; she does not have much to her aside from just being... well, as the title suggests, badass. But Summer is clearly having a lot of fun in the role and is clearly putting forth her best effort despite the simplicity, to the point you cannot help but enjoy her.
On the opposite side, Jack Dawson in Titanic (pictured above) is also pretty generic with little to him aside from being charming, but Leonardo is clearly having a lot of fun with it nonetheless and is putting forth his best effort to make it enjoyable, and it works.
7) Both have immense likeability that makes you instinctively want to root for them.
No matter what the role is, you always want to root for the characters either of these people plays. Whenever Leonardo DiCaprio is in a movie, no matter which one, I instinctively want to be on his side. Whenever Summer Glau is in a movie or whatever, I instinctively want to be on her side. This is because both people themselves are just such likeable people. Why would you ever want to hate either of them in a role?
8) Both are constantly snubbed for awards they rightfully deserve.
It’s no secret that everyone always points out the fact Leonardo DiCaprio has yet to win an Academy Award despite a high level of critical acclaim and rightfully deserving it. It’s also no secret that Summer Glau has never once been nominated for an Emmy, even though she also immensely deserves it. I’m still ticked off to think of the fact she never received a nomination for “Firefly”. All I can say is that if either of these actors ever wins one of the awards I have specified, it will make my life feel a bit more complete.
9) They both are immensely attractive and do not look their age.
Summer Glau at the time I write this article is 34 years old. She in my opinion could pass for someone in her 20s. She definitely does not look like she’s in her mid-30s. On the flip side, Leonardo DiCaprio is currently 40 years old. He in my opinion could pass for someone in their early 30s or so. Yes, with him, I’d probably be more likely to guess his actual age, but my first guess would probably not be 40. He in my opinion definitely does not look like he’s 40, even with a beard. Come on, a beard will make ANYONE look older. On the side of good looks, you would be hard-pressed to find a man who does not think Summer Glau is beautiful, and you would be hard-pressed to find a woman who does not find Leonardo DiCaprio sexy as heck. And honestly, I can see both sides. I mean, heck, if I had Leonardo DiCaprio’s looks, women would be all over me. Instead, I look like myself. Eh, too bad.
10) Both commonly collaborate with one particular director.
Leonardo DiCaprio often collaborates with Martin Scorsese (above left) on films, to the point that it has apparently become a cliché. Martin Scorsese movie? Hire Leonardo DiCaprio! Summer Glau is known for her work with Joss Whedon, and has collaborated with Whedon several times on works. Yes, both directors are known for frequently collaborating with the same actors multiple times, but if so, that only furthers this point; they’re both associated commonly with a director who frequently collaborates with the same actors.
11) They are both very charitable.
Summer Glau has shown support for several different charities, such as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Leonardo has shown fierce dedication to environmental causes. This goes back to what I said about both being likeable as well; you can’t help but respect people who take steps to support causes they believe in.
12) They both got their major start in a sci-fi production.
Summer’s major start in film was with Serenity. Leonardo’s major start in film was in Critters 3. Not only that, but Serenity was a science fiction film that was the continuation of a previous work (Firefly), as was Critters 3, since it was the third in a series
13) Their fourth work.
Leonardo DiCaprio’s fourth film was What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Summer Glau’s fourth television appearance was in the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode titled “What’s Eating Gilbert Grissom”. Well, ain’t THAT just something?
14) Both have very contagious smiles.
I’ll let this one speak for itself.
If neither of those images put even a little smile on your face, then get back to the Yellow Brick Road, Tin Man, Dorothy is looking for you.
15) Both have worked with Joss Whedon on a short-lived television series.
Both actors got their major start in acting on a TV series that only lasted about ten episodes. With Summer, it was of course Firefly. One of Leonardo’s first major television roles was on the short-lived 1990 show Parenthood, based off the 1989 Ron Howard film of the same name (the 2010 series Parenthood is also based off the film). Joss Whedon was a writer for both shows these actors were on. Weird, huh?
16) Both have connection with comic books.
Leonardo’s father works in the comic book industry, and Leonardo also collects comics himself (among collecting other forms of art). Summer herself is not only a fan of comic books, but has voiced characters in adaptations of comics (she voiced Supergirl in Superman/Batman: Apocalypse)
17) Both have played a character named “Jack”.
Leonardo of course portrayed Jack Dawson in Titanic (above right). Summer portrayed Jack Abernathy (above left) in the film Mammoth. Huh, Summer Glau playing a character named “Jack”? Sounds kinda funny. Now I’m just wishing that Jayne had used that as a comeback in the Firefly episode “Trash”.
18) Both have performed in a James Cameron-related project.
Summer Glau of course starred as Cameron on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, which was based on characters created by James Cameron (Cameron did not appear to have involvement in the series, however, but it was still based off of characters he created for the film series). Leonardo was directed by James Cameron when he portrayed Jack Dawson in Titanic.
19) Both have German heritage.
Summer Glau has German heritage (who makes it up is unknown to me), and Leonardo’s mother is German-born, giving Leonardo German heritage as well.
20) Even the stars agree with me...
And to end this article, the most unique coindence of all. Summer Glau’s birth date is July 24th. Why is that important? Get ready for this: a person born on July 24th has the astrological sign of “Leo”. Yeah, you heard that correctly: Summer literally IS a female Leo!
Conclusion: So in the end, whether or not I’ve convinced you of the connection between these two, I hope you at least found this article entertaining and interesting. Thanks for taking the time to read it, and thanks to Chris and the people at this website for inviting me to write this for the site. I had fun with it. If you want to check out my YouTube channel, where I review films, television, and all other genres (including works with Summer Glau in them), the link will be below. So anyway, have a good day, and stay shiny ;)
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