Leonardo DiCaprio Biography
Leonardo Wilhelm DiCaprio is an Academy Award-nominated and Golden Globe-winning American film actor. He gained 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 films Gangs of New York, 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 has also been nominated two times for BAFTA, three times for SAG and is a 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 he 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.
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 co-starred as the mentally handicapped brother to Johnny Depp in What's Eating Gilbert Grape. His performance earned him both an Academy Award and Golden Globe nomination for best supporting actor.
1995 was an eventful year for DiCaprio. That year he starred in four movies; in the first one, The Quick and the Dead, he played Gene Hackman's alleged son, Fee, starring alongside Sharon Stone and 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, a life story of drugs and prostitution. Baz Luhrmann's 1996 film Romeo + Juliet, again featured DiCaprio as the male lead and was one of the first films to cash in on DiCaprio's future star-status, with a worldwide box office take of $147 million. Later that year he starred in Marvin's Room, reuniting 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, alongside Kate Winslet as Rose DeWitt Bukater, which soon became the highest grossing film of all time and received 11 Oscars. 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 the villainous King Louis XIV and his secret, sympathetic 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. The Man in the Iron Mask may have benefited from Leo-Mania, considering its remarkably high worldwide box office gross (especially outside North-America) despite mediocre reviews.
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 received generally favorable reviews and DiCaprio was praised for the authenticity of his South African Afrikaner 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. 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 starred in 2008's Body of Lies, directed by Ridley Scott and co-starring Russell Crowe, Vince Colosimo, and Golshifteh Farahani. The same year, he appeared in Revolutionary Road, an adaptation of Richard Yates' critically-lauded 1961 novel. The latter reunited DiCaprio with his Titanic costars Kate Winslet and Kathy Bates. It was released in December 2008.
In 2008, he teamed with Scorsese again to film Ashecliffe, based on the novel, Shutter Island. His next collaboration with Scorsese will be The Wolf of Wall Street.
In June 2008, it was announced that DiCaprio will portray Nolan Bushnell, the founder of Atari and Chuck E. Cheese's, in a biopic part.
Environmental activism and charity
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 per capita. 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 1998, DiCaprio 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.
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.
He was recently invited to The Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh, Scotland, to talk about his environmental foundation to teach people about global warming. It is not yet known if he has accepted the offer, due to his busy schedule in Hollywood.
FEC showed DiCaprio gave $2300 to Barack Obama in the 2008 Presidential Elections, the maximum contribution an individual can give in an election cycle.
He dated Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen on and off from 2001 to 2005, and has also dated Kristen Zang. Since 2005, he has dated Israeli model Bar Rafaeli. He is close friends with Tobey Maguire and Titanic and Revolutionary Road co-star Kate Winslet. He was childhood friends with the late Christopher Pettiet.
On August 5, 2008, DiCaprio's maternal grandmother, Helene Indenbirken (née Smirnow, b. July 7, 1915), died in Oer-Erkenschwick, Germany, at the age of 93. His grandmother was an important pillar in his life; DiCaprio called her "Oma" (Grandma) and took her to some of his movie premieres. He had visited her in Germany in the last days of her life.
DiCaprio owns a home in Los Angeles and an apartment in TriBeCa, in Manhattan, 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 Manhattan.
DiCaprio has said in interviews that his favorite TV show is The Twilight Zone and he plans to make a series of movies based on episodes written by Rod Serling.