Also Credited As:Leo DiCaprio, Leonardo Wilhelm DiCaprio
|Leonardo Wilhelm DiCaprio on November 11, 1974 in Los Angeles, California, USA|
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Born Nov. 11, 1974 in Los Angeles, 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 cancelled, 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 shake up a show that had been sliding in the ratings, but the move proved futile and it was cancelled 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. 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 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. 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 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) and continued courting the art house crowd with Agnieszka Holland's problematic film version of Christopher Hampton's play, "Total Eclipse" (1995), a commercial flop. 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 the affecting drama "Marvin's Room" (1996).
By the time the mid-to-late 1990s rolled around, DiCaprio was a star. But nothing prepared him for the 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 a 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 at the time. Although some bemoaned the fact the he did not receive an Oscar nomination, DiCaprio reigned supreme as the biggest male box office attraction; 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 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 director Danny Boyle for "The Beach" (2000), an uneven star vehicle in which his performance was better than the story deserved. 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 is released from prison and becomes intent on taking on a rival gang led by Bill the Butcher (Daniel Day-Lewis). He 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 enough scams in various identities that he 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. For his efforts, DiCaprio was rewarded with a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a 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.
DiCaprio 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. Also that year, DiCaprio starred in "Blood Diamond" (2006), a sweeping tale 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 Actor 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 Tobey Maguire, could have his pick of the most beautiful women in the world. He was noted for his on-again, off-again romance with model Kristen Zang in 1996-97 and British model Emma Miller. He was also involved with Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen for several years starting in 2001, which was well chronicled in the media, only to break it off in 2002. They rekindled in 2003, but ultimately the couple split for good in 2005. Continuing the supermodel trend, he began dating Israeli beauty, Bar Refaeli, perhaps his most recognized romance, which started in early 2006. The pair made a public showing of meeting Israeli president Shimon Peres in 2007, split amicably in 2009, got back together in 2010 and permanently called it quits in 2011. In May of that year, DiCaprio moved over to dating actresses with Blake Lively, a whirlwind romance that ended after only five months in October 2011.
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), which depicted them as a young married couple in the 1950s who move to France, only to find their relationship deteriorate. The role earned him another Golden Globe nod for Best Actor. Meanwhile, DiCaprio worked with Scorsese again on "Shutter Island" (2010), in which he played a U.S. Marshal who investigates the disappearance of a patient from a hospital for the criminally insane, only to start questioning his own sanity. He was in top form for his next blockbuster, "Inception" (2010), a sci-fi heist thriller from Christopher Nolan in which he played Dom Cobb, an extractor who enters people's minds via shared dreaming in order to steal valuable secrets locked deep inside the victim's psyche. Praised for its intelligence and originality, "Inception" was a huge international hit and maintained DiCaprio's status as one of Hollywood's top box office earners.
DiCaprio next signed on to star in "J. Edgar" (2011), director Clint Eastwood's period biopic about notorious FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. Critics praised the actor's performance, which earned him an Academy Award nomination, though those same critics were divided over the quality of the film itself, with several citing Eastwood's lack of cohesion and focus. Meanwhile, after years of serious dramatic performances, DiCaprio was finally able to cut loose with a darkly comic turn in Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained" (2012), where he played Calvin J. Candie, a brutal, but charming plantation owner who forces male slaves to fight for sport and female slaves into prostitution. The film starred Jamie Foxx as the titular Django, a slave freed by a German bounty hunter after striking a deal to help him hunt down two murderous brothers. While Tarantino's film was widely praised, DiCaprio was singled out for his eccentric performance, which earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Supporting Actor and serious buzz for an Academy Award.