DiCaprio at the London premiere of The Wolf of Wall Street in 2014
|Born||Leonardo Wilhelm DiCaprio
November 11, 1974
Hollywood, California, U.S.
DiCaprio began his career by appearing in television commercials, after which he had recurring roles in TV series such as the soap opera Santa Barbara and the sitcom Growing Pains in the early 1990s. He began his film career by starring as Josh in Critters 3, whilst his first major film release was in the film adaptation of the memoir This Boy's Life (1993) alongside Robert De Niro. DiCaprio was praised for his supporting role in the drama What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), which earned him an Best Supporting Actor nomination. He gained public recognition with leading roles in the drama The Basketball Diaries (1995) and the romantic drama Romeo + Juliet (1996), before achieving international fame with James Cameron's epic romance Titanic (1997), earning him his first Drama Golden Globe Award. The film also became the highest grossing movie to that point.
Since the 2000s, DiCaprio has received critical acclaim for his work in a wide range of film genres. Some of his notable films include the ones mentioned above, the adventure film The Man in the Iron Mask (1998), the biographical crime drama Catch Me If You Can (2002) and the epic historical drama Gangs of New York (2002) which also marked his first of many collaborations with director Martin Scorsese. As well as these DiCaprio was also acclaimed for his performances in the political war thriller Blood Diamond (2006), the crime drama The Departed (2006), the espionage thriller Body of Lies (2008), the drama Revolutionary Road (2008), the psychological thriller Shutter Island (2010), the sci-fi heist thriller Inception (2010), biographical film J. Edgar (2011), the western Django Unchained (2012), and the epic drama The Great Gatsby (2013).
His portrayal of Howard Hughes in The Aviator (2004) and Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) won him the Golden Globe Awards for Best Actor in a Drama and Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy, respectively. In addition to acting, DiCaprio owns a production company named Appian Way Productions. He is also a committed environmentalist.
DiCaprio was born in Hollywood, California, the only child of Irmelin (née Indenbirken), a German-born legal secretary, and George DiCaprio, an underground comics artist and producer and distributor of comic books. DiCaprio's father is of half Italian (from the Naples area) and half German (from Bavaria) descent. DiCaprio's maternal grandfather, Wilhelm Indenbirken, was German. His maternal grandmother, Helene Indenbirken (1915–2008), a German citizen, was born as Yelena Smirnova in Russia. In an interview in Russia, Di Caprio referred to himself as "half Russian" and said that two of his late grandparents were Russians.
DiCaprio's parents met while attending college and subsequently moved to Los Angeles. He was named Leonardo because his pregnant mother was looking at a Leonardo da Vinci painting in a museum in Italy when DiCaprio first kicked. His parents divorced when he was a year old, and he lived mostly with his mother. The two lived in several Los Angeles neighborhoods, such as Echo Park, and at 1874 Hillhurst Avenue, Los Feliz district (which was later converted into a local public library), while his mother worked several jobs to support them. He attended Seeds Elementary School and John Marshall High School a few blocks away, after attending the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies for four years. However, he dropped out of high school following his third year, eventually earning his general equivalency diploma (GED). DiCaprio spent part of his childhood in Germany with his maternal grandparents, Wilhelm and Helene. He speaks German fluently.
DiCaprio's career began with his appearance in several commercials and educational films. After being removed from the set of children's television series Romper Room for being disruptive at the age of five, he followed his older stepbrother Adam Farrar into television commercials, landing an ad for Matchbox cars at 14. In 1990, he got his break on television when he was cast in the short-lived series based on the movie Parenthood. 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 involvement in Parenthood and the daily soap earned him a nomination for the Young Artist Award for Best Young Actor each.
1991–1995: Breaking into film
DiCaprio's debut film role was in the comedic sci-fi horror film Critters 3, in which he played the stepson of an evil landlord, a role that DiCaprio described as "your average, no-depth, standard kid with blond hair." Released in 1991, the movie went direct-to-video. Soon after, he became a recurring cast member on the ABC sitcom Growing Pains, playing Luke Brower, a homeless boy who is taken in by the Seaver family. DiCaprio made his big screen breakthrough in 1992, when he was handpicked by Robert De Niro out of 400 young actors to play the lead role in This Boy's Life.
Later in 1993, DiCaprio co-starred as the mentally handicapped brother of Johnny Depp's character in What's Eating Gilbert Grape, a comic-tragic odyssey of a dysfunctional Iowa family. Director Lasse Hallström admitted he was initially looking for a less good-looking actor but finally settled on DiCaprio as he had emerged as "the most observant actor" among all auditionees. Budgeted at US$11.0 million, the film became a financial and critical success, resulting in a domestic box office total of US$9.1 million and various accolades for DiCaprio, who was awarded the National Board of Review Award and nominated for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for his portrayal. New York Times critic Janet Maslin praised DiCaprio's performance, writing "the film's real show-stopping turn comes from Mr. DiCaprio, who makes Arnie's many tics so startling and vivid that at first he is difficult to watch. The performance has a sharp, desperate intensity from beginning to end."
DiCaprio's first effort of 1995 was Sam Raimi's The Quick and the Dead, a western film. Sony Pictures was dubious over DiCaprio's casting, and as a result, co-star Sharon Stone decided to pay for the actor's salary herself. The film was released to a dismal box office performance, barely grossing US$18.5 million in the US, and received mixed reviews from critics. DiCaprio next starred in Total Eclipse, a fictionalized account of the homosexual relationship between Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine. He replaced River Phoenix, who had died during pre-production on the project. A minor arthouse success, the film grossed US$0.34 million throughout its domestic theatrical run.
DiCaprio appeared in the mostly improvised short film called Don's Plum, as a favor to aspiring director R.D. Robb. When Robb decided to expand the black-and-white film to feature length, however, DiCaprio and Maguire had its release blocked by court order, arguing that they never intended to make it a theatrical release, as it would have commercial value thanks to their stardom. The film eventually premiered at the 2001 Berlin International Film Festival, where it was well received by critics. DiCaprio's last film of the year 1995 was The Basketball Diaries, a biopic about Jim Carroll.
1996–2001: Mainstream success
In 1996, DiCaprio appeared opposite Claire Danes in Baz Luhrmann's film Romeo + Juliet, an abridged modernization of William Shakespeare's romantic tragedy of the same name which retained the original Shakespearean dialogue. The project achieved a worldwide box office take of $147 million.
Later that year, he starred in Jerry Zaks' family drama Marvin's Room, reuniting with Robert De Niro. Based on Scott McPherson's screenplay adaptation of his own 1991 stage play of the same name, the film revolves around two sisters, played by Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton, who are reunited through tragedy after 17 years of estrangement. DiCaprio portrayed Hank, Streep's character's troubled son, who has been committed to a mental asylum for setting fire to his mother's house.
In 1997, DiCaprio starred in James Cameron's Titanic (1997) as twenty-year-old Jack Dawson, a penniless Wisconsin man who wins two tickets for the third-class on the ill-fated RMS Titanic. DiCaprio initially refused to portray the character but was eventually encouraged to pursue the role by Cameron, who strongly believed in his acting ability. Against expectations, the film went on to become the highest-grossing film to date (it was surpassed in 2010 by Cameron's film Avatar), grossing more than $1.843 billion in box-office receipts worldwide, and transformed DiCaprio into a commercial movie superstar, resulting in fan worship among teenage girls and young women in general that became known as "Leo-Mania". More than 200 fans contacted the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to protest his not being nominated for the 70th Academy Awards. He was nominated for other high-profile awards, including a second Golden Globe nomination. Upon the success of Titanic, DiCaprio stated in 2000: "I have no connection with me during that whole Titanic phenomenon and what my face became around the world [...] 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."
The following year, DiCaprio made a self-mocking cameo appearance in Woody Allen's caustic satire of the fame industry, Celebrity (1998). That year, he also starred in the dual roles of the villainous King Louis XIV and his secret, sympathetic twin brother Philippe in Randall Wallace's The Man in the Iron Mask, based on the same-titled 1939 film. Despite receiving a rather mixed to negative response, the film became a box office success, grossing US$180 million internationally. Though DiCaprio's performance was generally well-received, with Entertainment Weekly critic Owen Gleiberman writing that "the shockingly androgynous DiCaprio looks barely old enough to be playing anyone with hormones, but he's a fluid and instinctive actor, with the face of a mischievous angel,"
DiCaprio's next project was the drama film The Beach (2000), an adaption of Alex Garland's same-titled 1996 novel. He played an American backpacking tourist looking for the perfect way of life in a secret island commune in the Gulf of Thailand. Budgeted at $US50 million, the film became a financial success, grossing $US144 million worldwide, but as with DiCaprio's previous project, the film was largely panned by critics. Todd McCarthy of Variety noted that "Richard [DiCaprio's role] is too much the American Everyman and not enough of a well-defined individual to entirely capture one's interest and imagination, and DiCaprio, while perfectly watchable, does not endow him with the quirks or distinguishing marks to make this man from nowhere a dimensional character." The next year, he was nominated for another Razzie Award for his work on the film.
2002–2007: Critical acclaim
DiCaprio's first film of 2002 was the biographical crime drama film Catch Me If You Can, based on the life of Frank Abagnale Jr., who, before his 19th birthday, used his charm, confidence, and several different personas, to make millions in the 1960s writing bad checks. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the film was shot in 147 different locations in only 52 days, making it "the most adventurous, super-charged movie-making" DiCaprio had experienced yet. Catch Me If You Can received favourable reviews and proved to be an international success, becoming Dicaprio's highest-grossing film since Titanic with a total of US$351.1 million worldwide. Roger Ebert praised his performance, and noted that while "DiCaprio, who in recent films [...] has played dark and troubled characters, is breezy and charming here, playing a boy who discovers what he is good at, and does it." The following year, DiCaprio received his third Golden Globe nomination for his work in the film.
Also in 2002, DiCaprio appeared in Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York, a historical film set in the mid-19th century in the Five Points district of New York City. Director Scorsese initially struggled selling his idea of realizing the film until DiCaprio became interested in playing protagonist Amsterdam Vallon, a young leader of the Irish faction, and thus, Miramax Films got involved with financing the project. Nonetheless production on the film was plagued by blown-out budgets and producer-director squabbles, resulting in a marathon eight-month shoot and, at US$103 million, the most expensive film Scorsese had ever made. Upon its release, Gangs of New York became a financial and critical success. DiCaprio's acting was well-received but was overshadowed by Daniel Day-Lewis' performance among most critics.
Forging a collaboration with Scorsese, the two paired again for a biopic of the eccentric and obsessive American film director and aviation pioneer Howard Hughes in The Aviator (2004). Centering on Hughes' life from the late 1920s to 1947, DiCaprio initially developed the project with Michael Mann, who decided against directing it after back-to-back film biographies in Ali and The Insider. The actor eventually pitched John Logan's script to Scorsese, who quickly signed on to direct. The Aviator became a critical and financial success. DiCaprio received rave reviews for his performance and won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor, also receiving another Academy Award nomination.
In 2005, DiCaprio was made a Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Minister of Culture for his contributions to the arts. The following year, the actor starred in both Blood Diamond and The Departed. In Edward Zwick's war film Blood Diamond, he starred as a diamond smuggler from Rhodesia who is involved in the Sierra Leone Civil War. 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 to imitate. In Scorsese's The Departed he played the role of Billy Costigan, a state trooper working undercover in an Irish Mob in Boston. Highly anticipated, the film was released to overwhelmingly positive reviews and became one of the highest-rated wide release films of 2006. Budgeted at US$90 million, it also emerged as DiCaprio and Scorsese's highest-grossing collaboration to date, easily beating The Aviator´s previous record of US$213.7 million. DiCaprio's performance in The Departed was applauded by critics and earned him a Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor. The same year, both the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild nominated DiCaprio twice in the Best Actor category for both of his 2006 features, and in addition, DiCaprio earned his third Academy Award nomination for Blood Diamond.
In 2008, DiCaprio starred in Body of Lies, a spy film based on the novel of the same name by David Ignatius, set in context of the Middle East and the War on Terror, telling the story of three men battling a terrorist organization, and each other. Directed by Ridley Scott, DiCaprio dyed his hair brown and wore brown contacts for the role, which he chose to pursue because he considered it a throwback to political films of the 1970s such as The Parallax View (1974) and Three Days of the Condor (1975). The film received mixed reviews from critics, and at a budget of US$67.5 million, became a moderate box office success, grossing US$115 million worldwide.
The same year, DiCaprio reunited with Kate Winslet to film the drama Revolutionary Road (2008), directed by Winslet's then-husband Sam Mendes. As both actors had been reluctant to make romantic films similar to Titanic, it was Winslet who suggested that both should work with her on a film adaptation of the 1961 novel of the same name by Richard Yates after reading the script by Justin Haythe, knowing that plot had little in common with the 1997 blockbuster. Once DiCaprio agreed to do the film, it went almost immediately into production. He noted that he saw his character as "unheroic" and "slightly cowardly" and that he was "willing to be just a product of his environment." Portraying a couple in a failing marriage in the 1950s, DiCaprio and Winslet watched period videos promoting life in the suburbs to prepare themselves for Revolutionary Road, which eventually earned them favorable reviews. For his portrayal DiCaprio garnered his seventh Golden Globes nomination.
DiCaprio continued his collaborative streak with Scorsese in the 2010 psychological thriller film Shutter Island (2010), based on the 2003 novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane. He played U.S. Marshal Edward "Teddy" Daniels, who is investigating a psychiatric facility located on an island and comes to question his own sanity. The film grossed $294 million.
Also in 2010, DiCaprio starred in director Christopher Nolan's science-fiction film Inception. Inspired by the experience of lucid dreaming and dream incubation, DiCaprio portrays the character of Dom Cobb, an "extractor" who enters the dreams of others to obtain information that is otherwise inaccessible. Cobb is promised a chance to regain his old life in exchange for planting an idea in a corporate target's mind. DiCaprio was "intrigued by this concept — this dream-heist notion and how this character's gonna unlock his dreamworld and ultimately affect his real life." Released to critical acclaim, the film grossed over $825 million worldwide. To star in this film, DiCaprio agreed to a pay cut from his $20 million fee, in favor of splitting first-dollar gross points, which means he receives money coming directly off the top of ticket sales. This risk paid off, with DiCaprio earning $50 million from the film to become his highest payday yet. In July 2010, it was announced that DiCaprio had pulled out of a Viking movie to be directed by Mel Gibson amid controversy over Gibson's rage-fueled rant tapes and domestic violence probe.
In 2011, DiCaprio starred alongside Armie Hammer and Naomi Watts in Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar, a biopic about J. Edgar Hoover. Written by Dustin Lance Black, the film focuses on the career of the FBI director from the Palmer Raids onwards, including an examination of his private life as an alleged closeted homosexual. Reviews towards the film were mostly mixed, with many critics commending DiCaprio's performance but feeling that, overall, the film lacked coherence. Roger Ebert praised DiCaprio's performance as a "fully-realized, subtle and persuasive performance, hinting at more than Hoover ever revealed, perhaps even to himself."
In 2012, DiCaprio starred as villainous Calvin Candie in Quentin Tarantino spaghetti western, Django Unchained. The film received positive reviews from critics and earned DiCaprio his ninth nomination from the Golden Globes. Django Unchained grossed $424 million worldwide.
DiCaprio's next film was The Great Gatsby again with Baz Luhrmann (who filmed with him Romeo + Juliet in 1996), a big screen adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel, also starring Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire; the film was released on May 10, 2013. It received mixed reviews from critics, however DiCaprio's portrayal as Jay Gatsby was praised. Critic Rafer Guzman of Newsday praised DiCaprio by stating, "As for Leonardo DiCaprio, he is now the Gatsby to beat. Despite a borderline comedic entrance -- haloed by fireworks and accompanied by Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue"—DiCaprio nails this maddeningly enigmatic character. He's as tough as Alan Ladd in '49, as suave as Redford in '74, but also vulnerable, touching, funny, a faker, a human. You hear it all in Gatsby's favorite phrase, "old sport," a verbal tic that stumped other actors. It's a tremendous, hard-won performance." Matt Zoller Seitz of Roger Ebert.com described his performance as Gatsby as "The movie's greatest and simplest special effect," and states "This is an iconic performance — maybe his career best." The film grossed $348 million worldwide and became Luhrmann's highest grossing film.
DiCaprio reunited with Scorsese for the fifth time in The Wolf of Wall Street, a true story based on the life of stockbroker Jordan Belfort, who was arrested in the late 1990s for securities fraud and money laundering. Filming began on August 8, 2012, in New York, and the film was released on December 25, 2013. The role earned him a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy and his fourth Academy Award nomination for acting. In January 2013, DiCaprio said he was going to take a long break from acting and would "fly around the world doing good for the environment."
DiCaprio's romantic relationships have been widely covered in the media. DiCaprio dated model Kristen Zang on-and-off for several years, and British model and socialite Emma Miller. In 2000, he met Brazilian model Gisele Bündchen with whom he had an on-and-off relationship until their separation in 2005. DiCaprio began a relationship with model Bar Refaeli in November 2005 after meeting her at a Las Vegas party thrown for members of U2. In the course of their trip to Israel in March 2007, the couple met with Israeli president Shimon Peres and visited Refaeli's hometown of Hod HaSharon. The relationship was on hold for a period of six months starting in June 2009; in early 2010, the romance was rekindled. In May 2011, it was reported that the couple had ended their romantic relationship. In August 2011, it was reported that he was in a relationship with actress Blake Lively since mid-May. They ended their relationship in October 2011. DiCaprio dated model Erin Heatherton from December 2011 to October 2012. From May 2013 to December 2014, DiCaprio dated German model Toni Garrn.
DiCaprio owns a home in Los Angeles and an apartment in Battery Park City in Lower Manhattan. In 2009, he bought an island off mainland Belize on which he is planning to create an eco-friendly resort. In 2005, DiCaprio's face was severely injured when model Aretha Wilson hit him over the head with a broken bottle at a Hollywood party. After pleading guilty in 2010, Wilson was sentenced to prison for two years. In 2014, he purchased the original Dinah Shore residence designed by mid-century modern architect Donald Wexler in Palm Springs.
Environmental activism and philanthropy
A dedicated environmentalist, DiCaprio has received praise from environmental groups for his activism. He owns an electric Tesla Roadster, a Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid, and a Toyota Prius. He has also installed solar panels on his house. In an interview with Ukula about his film the 11th Hour, DiCaprio cited global warming as "the number-one environmental challenge".
At the 2007 Oscar ceremony, DiCaprio and former Vice President Al Gore appeared to announce that the Academy Awards had incorporated environmentally intelligent practices throughout the planning and production processes, thus affirming their commitment to the environment, and on July 7, 2007, DiCaprio presented at the American leg of Live Earth. In 2010, his environmental work earned DiCaprio a nomination for the VH1 Do Something Award. The awards show, produced by VH1, is dedicated to honoring people who do good and is powered by Do Something, a New York-based organization that aims to empower and inspire young people. On September 16, 2014, DiCaprio, has been appointed as a United Nations representative on climate change.
In 1998, DiCaprio and his mother donated $35,000 for a "Leonardo DiCaprio Computer Center" at the Los Feliz branch of the Los Angeles Public Library, 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. In 2010, he donated $1 million to relief efforts in Haiti after the earthquake.
During the 2004 presidential election, DiCaprio campaigned and donated to John Kerry's presidential bid. The FEC showed DiCaprio gave $2,300 to Barack Obama's presidential campaign in the 2008 election, the maximum contribution an individual can give in that election cycle, and $5,000 to Obama's 2012 campaign.
In November 2010, DiCaprio donated $1 million to the Wildlife Conservation Society at Russia's tiger summit. DiCaprio's persistence in reaching the event after encountering two plane delays caused then Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to describe him as a "muzhik" or "real man". In 2011, DiCaprio joined the Animal Legal Defense Fund's campaign to free Tony, a tiger who has spent the last decade at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete, Louisiana. DiCaprio is an activist for gay rights; in April 2013, he donated $61,000 to GLAAD, an organization which promotes the image of LGBT people in the media.
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