Leonardo DiCaprio

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        B O R N  1 9 7 4

        Born Nov. 11, 1974 in Los Angeles, CA, DiCaprio was initially raised by his mother, Irmelin, a legal secretary who was born in Germany, and George, a former comic artist and distributor who divorced his wife when his son was only a year old.


        Though he lived mostly with his mother, DiCaprio did see his father over the years. In fact, after his father remarried, it was his stepbrother – himself, briefly a child actor – who influenced the young DiCaprio to get into the game. He made his first strides in the business by landing an audition for a commercial when he was six years old, then began making the agent rounds, one of whom wanted him to change his name to Lenny Williams. Prescient for his age, DiCaprio rejected the idea out of hand and stuck with his original name. Meanwhile, he made one of his earliest onscreen appearances in the educational film, “How to Deal with a Parent Who Takes Drugs” (1988). Two years later, he had his first real break when he was cast in “Parenthood” (NBC, 1989-1991), a short-lived sitcom based on the 1989 hit film. After the show was canceled, DiCaprio made an inauspicious film debut in the goofy horror flick, “Critters 3” (1991).

        In the early 1990s, DiCaprio landed a recurring role on the once-popular sitcom “Growing Pains” (ABC, 1985-1992), playing a homeless boy taken in by the motley Seaver clan. DiCaprio was brought in to help shake up a stale formula for a show that had been sliding in the ratings. But the move proved futile and the show was canceled after his first and only season. After a small role in the campy erotic thriller “Poison Ivy” (1992), DiCaprio finally announced his arrival with a sterling performance as a rambunctious youth who is verbally, emotionally and physically abused by his new stepfather (Robert De Niro) in “This Boy’s Life” (1993), based on Tobias Wolff's award-winning autobiographical novel. One of 400 others auditioning for the role, DiCaprio won the part, thanks in part to De Niro, who saw something special in the young actor and lobbied director Michael Caton-Jones to cast him. While the film fizzled at the box office, DiCaprio managed to upstage De Niro and onscreen mother Ellen Barkin, walking away with some of the strongest notices of a career that had only just begun.

        DiCaprio was next cast alongside Johnny Depp in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" (1993), an evocative adaptation of Peter Hedges' coming-of-age novel that depicted him as the mentally challenged kid brother of a young man unable to leave his small Iowa hometown because of family obligations. DiCaprio’s performance was so convincing that many who were unaware of him before the film thought that he really was mentally challenged. The 19-year-old actor again earned overwhelmingly positive reviews, as well as an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor. He next tried his hand at a genre film with a supporting role opposite Sharon Stone in Sam Raimi's exceedingly stylish meta-Western, "The Quick and the Dead" (1995). DiCaprio brought verve and cynicism to his portrayal of the Kid, a cocksure young gunslinger who may be the son of a corrupt mayor (Gene Hackman) ruling a frontier town with an iron fist. He veered back to the independent world to star in the profoundly disappointing adaptation of "The Basketball Diaries" (1995), Jim Carroll's gritty memoirs of a youth that incorporated good grades, local basketball stardom and a heroin addiction. DiCaprio won praise for his highly emotional performance, but the film was deemed aimless, shallow and routine.

        Continuing to court the art house crowd, DiCaprio portrayed the young French poet and arrogant, self-styled genius Arthur Rimbaud in Agnieszka Holland's problematic film version of Christopher Hampton's play, "Total Eclipse" (1995). The psychological drama traced the complex and exceedingly unpleasant sexual relationship between the youthful Rimbaud and his older mentor, Paul Verlaine (David Thewlis), while failing to deal with their art. A critical and commercial flop, the film marked DiCaprio's first unqualified disaster since making his mark just two years previously. He bounced back with his next project, the eagerly awaited "William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet" (1996). Paired with rising star Claire Danes, DiCaprio strove to create a "more hardcore" Romeo for the bizarrely stylized and anachronistic take on the classic helmed by Australian director Baz Luhrmann. Later that year, he was featured as Meryl Streep's troubled teenaged son in "Marvin's Room” (1996), an affecting drama about a woman (Diane Keaton) who – after caring for her ailing father (Hume Cronyn) and learning she herself has cancer – comes back into her sister’s life in search of a bone marrow donor.

        By the time the mid-to-late 1990s rolled around, DiCaprio was a star. But nothing prepared him for the loony amount of celebrity he achieved with his next film, “Titanic” (1997), James Cameron’s movie to end all movies about the doomed voyage aboard history’s most notorious cruise ship. DiCaprio played Jack Dawson, a plucky, impoverished American artist who wins a third-class ticket on the luxury liner and enters into a star-crossed love affair with a young Philadelphia socialite (Kate Winslet) fated to marry the caddish heir to an enormous steel fortune (Billy Zane). With stunning visual effects and a believable love story anchored by fine performances, “Titanic” became a landmark cinematic achievement, while earning the top spot as the all-time highest grossing film in history. Although some bemoaned the fact the he did not receive an Oscar nomination, DiCaprio reigned supreme as the biggest male box office attraction at the time; indeed, much of the repeat business that propelled “Titanic” to unprecedented heights was credited to a legion of young female fans who were enthralled with the young actor. After the one-two punch of "Romeo" and "Titanic," his celebrity status was assured and despite cutting back on the amount of screen roles he accepted, he became an object of media fascination for the next several years.

        DiCaprio continued in period fare with the dual role of French King Louis XIV and his doppelganger in “The Man in the Iron Mask" (1998). Though he delivered another fine performance, he failed to ignite "Titanic"-sized box office returns. Two years later, he joined hard-edged director Danny Boyle for "The Beach" (2000), an uneven star vehicle in which he played an American searching for lost treasure on a secluded Asian island. DiCaprio's performance was better than the story deserved, and again failed to spark interest with anyone but his most die-hard fans. Things looked up when the actor was cast in Martin Scorsese's 19th century crime saga, "Gangs of New York" (2002). DiCaprio played Irish-American immigrant Amsterdam Vallon, who gets released from prison and becomes intent on taking on a rival gang led by Bill the Butcher (Daniel Day-Lewis), a deadly knife-wielding thug who killed Vallon’s father (Liam Neeson). Despite maintaining his youthful appearance, DiCaprio performed one of his first truly adult roles. DiCaprio next found himself working with Steven Spielberg in "Catch Me If You Can" (2002), playing real-life con artist Frank W. Abagnale, who successfully pulled off dozens of scams in various identities and became the youngest man on the FBI's most wanted list. Perfectly cast, DiCaprio delivered his most charming and mature performance to date.

        DiCaprio reunited with Scorsese on "The Aviator" (2004), a project the actor initially planned to do with director Michael Mann, which focused on the prime years of the famed billionaire Howard Hughes. Although many felt DiCaprio's boyish looks were not ideally suited for the role, he delivered one of his strongest performances yet, convincingly portraying Hughes' multifaceted qualities: as a young mogul-in-the-making taking Hollywood by storm; as one of Tinseltown's most notorious ladies' men; as a pioneer of aviation and an enterprising maverick who took on the U.S. government; and most compellingly, as man whose potential is crippled by obsessive-compulsive disorder. As the centerpiece of Scorsese's boldest work in nearly a decade, DiCaprio again delivered on his own early promise, smoothly maturing into more adult and more challenging roles. For his efforts, DiCaprio was rewarded with a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama. His bravura performance also earned him another Academy Award nomination, while his second collaboration with Scorsese drew comparisons to the director’s previous relationship with Robert De Niro.

        After the success of "The Aviator," DiCaprio immediately reunited with Scorsese alongside an all-star cast that included Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin and Jack Nicholson for "The Departed" (2006), in which he played a Boston cop assigned to work undercover inside a notorious Irish-American gang. As he rises up the ranks to a senior level and earns the trust of the gang’s ruthless leader (Nicholson), a member of the gang (Damon) infiltrates the police force and feeds the gang high-level intelligence. Loosely based on the excellent Hong Kong action thriller “Infernal Affairs” (2002), the tense crime drama earned solid reviews, and more importantly a long-awaited Oscar for Martin Scorsese. Also that year, DiCaprio starred in “Blood Diamond” (2006), a sweeping tale directed by Edward Zwick about a South African diamond smuggler (DiCaprio) and a poor fisherman (Djimon Hounsou) who join forces in order to find a rare pink diamond that can transform both their lives. DiCaprio earned Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture for both “The Departed” and “Blood Diamond,” while he received a Best Actor nod at the Academy Awards for only the latter.

        A committed environmental activist who lived up to his public opinions by driving a hybrid vehicle and installing solar panels on his house, it was no surprise that DiCaprio narrated “11th Hour” (2006), a documentary that examined global warming and possible solutions to restore the planet’s decaying ecosystems. Apart from his environmental efforts and film roles, DiCaprio consistently remained in the news – predominately of the tabloid variety – for one other reason: his reputation as bit of a lothario, who, along with best friend Toby Maguire, could have his pick of the most beautiful women in the world His on-and-off relationship with the gorgeous Brazilian model, Gisele, was well chronicled, but ultimately the couple broke up after five years together, whereupon, he began dating another model, Israeli beauty, Bar Refaeli.

        Back in the feature world, he played a CIA operative who helps infiltrate a major terrorist network in Jordan, only to come to distrust a veteran agent (Russell Crowe) inside the operation, in “Body of Lies” (2008). He then enjoyed a long-awaited reunion with “Titanic” co-star Kate Winslet for “Revolutionary Road” (2008), a period story that depicted DiCaprio and Winslet as a young married couple in the 1950s who move to France to find fulfillment, but instead find their relationship deteriorating into an endless cycle of jealousy and recriminations. Meanwhile, DiCaprio worked once again with Scorsese; this time on “Ashecliffe” (2009), a mystery thriller about two U.S. Marshals in the 1950s who are sent to a federal institution for the criminally insane in Boston’s Outer Harbor in order to capture a violent female escapee. Toward the end of 2008, DiCaprio earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama for his performance in “Revolutionary Road.”


        I M A G E S

        Body of Lies Actor Leonardo Dicaprio with Mother Irmelin at Golden Globes Actors Sharon Stone and Leonardo Dicaprio Actor Leonardo Dicaprio in Basketball Uniform Actors Mark Wahlberg and Leonardo Dicaprio at Film Premiere for The Basketball Diaries


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