Leonardo Wilhelm DiCaprio (born November 11, 1974) is an award winning American film actor. He garnered worldwide fame for his role as Jack Dawson in Titanic and has starred in many other successful films including Romeo + Juliet, Catch Me If You Can, and Blood Diamond. He has appeared in Martin Scorsese’s recent film, Gangs of New York, as well as The Aviator, and The Departed causing people to compare this relationship to that from which actor Robert De Niro benefited early in his career. DiCaprio is a three time Academy Award-, two time BAFTA Award-, and one time SAG Award-nominee, as well as a Golden Globe Award-, NBR Award-, and Silver Bear Award-winner.
DiCaprio was born in Los Angeles, California, the only child of Irmelin (née Indenbirken), a former legal secretary, and George DiCaprio, an underground comic artist and producer/distributor of comic books. His mother moved from Oer-Erkenschwick, Germany, to the U.S. during her childhood, while his father is a fourth-generation American of half Italian and half German descent. DiCaprio’s parents met while attending college together and subsequently moved to Los Angeles. He was named after artist Leonardo da Vinci, as his pregnant mother was standing in front of a da Vinci painting at a museum in Italy when DiCaprio first kicked.
His parents divorced when he was one. He lived mostly with his mother, although his father was around intermittently. During his childhood, he attended Seeds Elementary School. He was interested in baseball cards, comic books and frequently visited museums, with his father. DiCaprio and his mother lived in several neighborhoods, such as Echo Park.
During his teen years, he lived at 1874 Hillhurst Avenue, Los Feliz district of Los Angeles, California (which was later converted into a local public library) and his mother worked several jobs to support them. He graduated from John Marshall High School a few blocks away, after attending the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies for four years.
After his divorce, his father married Peggy Ann Farrar, who had a son called Adam Farrar, another actor/producer who became Leo’s stepbrother and who inspired DiCaprio to become an actor.DiCaprio began looking for an agent at the age of twelve, but was initially turned down several times; one agent suggested that he anglicize his name to “Lenny Williams”, which DiCaprio rejected.
DiCaprio’s career began with his appearing in several commercials and educational films. He got his break on television in 1990 when he was cast in the short-lived series based on the movie Parenthood. On set, he met another struggling child actor, Tobey Maguire. The two quickly became friends and made a pact to help each other find roles in TV and movies. After Parenthood, DiCaprio had bit parts on several shows, including The New Lassie and Roseanne, as well as a brief stint on the soap opera Santa Barbara, playing the young Mason Capwell.
His debut film role was Critters 3, a B-grade horror movie, which later went straight to video. Soon after, in 1991, he became a recurring cast member on the hit ABC sitcom Growing Pains, playing Luke Brower, a homeless boy who is taken in by the Seavers.
His breakthrough came in 1992, when he beat out hundreds of other boys for the role of Toby Wolff in This Boy’s Life, co-starring Robert De Niro and Ellen Barkin. His performance, as the troubled, abused teenager was critically acclaimed and Hollywood soon took notice. Later in 1993, he starred as the mentally handicapped brother to Johnny Depp in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. His performance earned him both an Oscar and Golden Globe nomination for best supporting actor.
1995 was an eventful year for DiCaprio. That year he starred in four movies; the first one, The Quick and the Dead, he played Gene Hackman’s alleged son, Fee, starring alongside Sharon Stone and a soon-to-be-famous Russell Crowe.
After The Quick and The Dead, he starred in Total Eclipse, a fictionalized account of the homosexual relationship between Paul Verlaine (David Thewlis) and Arthur Rimbaud. River Phoenix was originally cast as Rimbaud, but died before production.
The black-and-white movie Don’s Plum, a low budget drama featuring the actor and his friends (including Tobey Maguire) was filmed between 1995 and 1996. Its release was blocked by DiCaprio and Maguire, who argued that they never intended to make it a theatrical release. Nevertheless, it premiered in Berlin in 2001.
Also in 1995, he starred as Jim Caroll in The Basketball Diaries his life story of drugs and prostitution.Baz Luhrmann’s 1996 film Romeo + Juliet, again featured DiCaprio as the male lead. Later that year he starred in Marvin’s Room, reuiniting with Robert De Niro and appearing alongside Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton.
Superstardom and “Leo-Mania”
The move from “star” to “superstar” came when DiCaprio played Jack Dawson in the 1997 blockbuster Titanic, along side Kate Winslet as Rose DeWitt Bukater, which soon became the highest grossing film of all time and received 11 Oscars. Over the course of the next few years he would become a household name worldwide, synonymous with labels such as “teenage heart-throb” and “sex symbol”. People placed him in their annual “Most Beautiful People” issue on numerous occasions. At the peak of his celebrity in 1998, DiCaprio fronted scores of magazine covers ranging from Vanity Fair to Rolling Stone, and was once the most searched for personality in the early years of the Internet. In 1998, he made a cameo appearance in Woody Allen’s satire Celebrity. That year he also starred in the dual roles of King Louis XIV and his secret twin brother Philippe in The Man in the Iron Mask. His popularity at the time was dubbed “Leo-mania”, comparing his sudden fame and fan frenzy to that of the Beatles in the 1960s, known as Beatlemania.
What came apropos with fame were tales in the tabloids of excesses and indulgence. In the Japanese media, he was referred to as Leo-sama, with the “sama” suffix given to show the utmost respect. Time summed up the fame superhighway and its trappings in an interview with the actor in 2000, reporting:
DiCaprio still thinks of himself as an edgy indie actor, not the Tiger Beat cover boy. “I have no connection with me during that whole Titanic Phenomenon and what my face became around the world,” DiCaprio commented, adding, “I’ll never reach that state of popularity again, and I don’t expect to. It’s not something I’m going to try to achieve either.”
Nonetheless, the headlines and controversy failed to let up, peaking when he starred in a project by Danny Boyle based on Alex Garland’s backpacker cult classic The Beach that year. Because of clashes with the Thai authorities over the use of the island of Ko Phi Phi in 1999, the film garnered more bad press than expected. It was reported that permission granted to the film company to physically alter the environment inside Phi Phi Islands National Park was illegal. In the end, the film also did not score as well as expected at the box office, and was also critically panned.
Critically acclaimed acting
In 2002, DiCaprio starred in Gangs of New York (directed by Martin Scorsese) and Catch Me If You Can (directed by Steven Spielberg). Both films were very well received by critics. Forging a collaboration with Scorsese, the two paired again for a biopic of American aviation pioneer Howard Hughes in The Aviator, a film that scored DiCaprio a second Academy Award nomination, for Best Actor.
DiCaprio continued his run with Scorsese (some claim him to be Scorsese’s “new De Niro”) in the 2006 film The Departed as Billy Costigan, a smart undercover cop in Boston. His next film was Blood Diamond, released in December 2006. The film itself generally favorable reviews and DiCaprio was praised for the authenticity of his South African Afrikaaner accent, known as a difficult accent of English to emulate.
In 2006, the Golden Globes and Broadcast Film Critics Association nominated DiCaprio twice in the same category: Best Actor for Blood Diamond and The Departed, which is an extremely rare honor for actors. Also in the same year, he received two nominations for the Screen Actors Guild Awards, a lead actor nomination for Blood Diamond and a supporting actor nomination for The Departed. He earned an Oscar nomination for lead actor in Blood Diamond and a BAFTA nod for lead actor for The Departed.
DiCaprio has two films coming out in the second half of 2008: Body of Lies, directed by Ridley Scott, and Revolutionary Road, an adaptation of Richard Yates’ critically-lauded 1961 novel. The latter reunites DiCaprio with his Titanic costars Kate Winslet and Kathy Bates. It is scheduled for release in December 2008.
In 2008 he teamed with Scorsese again to film Shutter Island, based on the novel of the same name. His next collaboration with Scorsese will be The Wolf of Wall Street.
DiCaprio currently is ranked the 9th Best Working Actor Today by The Screen Directory. In May 2007, he was listed among Time’s 100 Most Influential People in The World.
A committed environmentalist, DiCaprio has received praise from environmental groups for opting to fly on commercial flights instead of chartering private jets, which use more fuel. He has also mentioned that he drives a hybrid car and that his house has solar panels.His actions have inspired other celebrities, such as Orlando Bloom and Penelope Cruz. In an article in Ukula about his new film 11th Hour (which he co-wrote, co-produced and narrated), DiCaprio cites global warming as “the number one environmental challenge.”DiCaprio and former vice-president Al Gore announced at the 2007 Oscar ceremony that the Oscars had incorporated environmentally intelligent practices throughout the planning and production processes, thus affirming their commitment to the environment. On July 7, 2007, DiCaprio presented at the American leg of Live Earth. During the 2004 Presidential election, DiCaprio campaigned and donated to John Kerry’s presidential bid. In March 2008, DiCaprio endorsed Barack Obama for the Presidency.
In 1998, he and his mother donated $35,000 for a state-of-the-art “Leonardo DiCaprio Computer Center” at the Los Feliz branch of the Los Angeles Public Library (1874 Hillhurst Avenue) which happens to be the site of his childhood home. It was rebuilt after the 1994 Northridge earthquake, and opened in early 1999. There are commemorative placards and curious fans are welcomed at the library.
During the filming of Blood Diamond, DiCaprio worked with 24 orphaned children from the SOS Children’s Village in Maputo, Mozambique, and was said to be extremely touched by his interactions with the children.
DiCaprio owns a home in Los Angeles and an apartment in New York. He bought an island in Belize where he is planning to create an eco-friendly resort, as well as an apartment in Riverhouse, an eco-friendly building overlooking the Hudson River.
In January, 2008, extradition processes began against Aretha Wilson, 37, who escaped to Toronto, Ontario, Canada after seriously injuring Leonardo DiCaprio with a broken beer bottle at a June 20, 2005 Hollywood Hills party. She also has pending aggravated assault cases.
He was recently invited to The Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh, Scotland, to talk about his foundation which is to raise awareness of our environment. It is not yet known if he has accepted the offer, due to his busy schedule in Hollywood.
He has been in several high profile relationships, including with Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen and actress/model Kristen Zang. He has been dating Israeli model Bar Refaeli since 2006.
On August 5, 2008, DiCaprios maternal grandmother, Helene Indenbirken (née Smirnow, b. July 7, 1915), died in Oer-Erkenschwick, aged 93. His grandmother was an important pillar in his life. He had visited her in the last days of her life. He had called her “Oma” all the time and took her to movie premieres with him.
Year Title Role Notes
1991 Critters 3 Josh
1992 Poison Ivy Guy
1993 This Boy’s Life Tobias “Toby” Wolff
What’s Eating Gilbert Grape Arnie Grape First Academy Award and Golden Globe Nominations at age 19
1995 The Quick and The Dead Fee Herod “The Kid”
The Basketball Diaries Jim Carroll
Total Eclipse Arthur Rimbaud
1996 Romeo + Juliet Romeo Montague
Marvin’s Room Hank SAG nomination for best ensemble
1997 Titanic Jack Dawson Nominated for Best Actor at 1998 Golden Globe and 2 SAG Awards; This Film won 11 Academy Awards
1998 The Man in the Iron Mask King Louis XIV/Philippe
2000 The Beach Richard
2001 Don’s Plum Derek
2002 Catch Me If You Can Frank William Abagnale Jr. Nominated for Best Actor at 2003 Golden Globe
Gangs of New York Amsterdam Vallon
2004 The Aviator Howard Hughes Nominated for Best Actor at 2005 Academy Award and 2 SAG Award; won a Golden Globe.
2006 Blood Diamond Danny Archer Nominated for Best Actor at 2007 Academy Award, Golden Globe and SAG Awards
The Departed William “Billy” Costigan Jr. Nominated for Best Actor at 2007 Golden Globe and for 2 SAG Awards (best supporting actor and ensemble)
2007 The 11th Hour Narrator/Producer
Year Title Role Notes
2008 Revolutionary Road Frank Wheeler awaiting release
Body of Lies Roger Ferris awaiting release
2009 Ashecliffe Edward “Teddy” Daniels post-production
Akira Producer announced
The Chancellor Manuscript Peter Chancellor announced
The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt Theodore Roosevelt announced