Leonardo DiCaprio is a well-known actor recognized for his daring and unorthodox roles. He began his career in television before moving on to film, where he received an Oscar nomination for his performance in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993). DiCaprio rose to prominence after starring in James Cameron’s epic movie Titanic in 1997.
The actor has also collaborated with legendary director Martin Scorsese on various productions, including The Aviator (2004) and The Departed (2006). (2006). His most recent films include Inception (2010), Django Unchained (2012), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), and The Revenant (2015), for which he won his first Academy Award.
Leonardo Wilhelm DiCaprio was born on November 11, 1974, in Los Angeles, California, to Irmelin and George DiCaprio. When he was a toddler, his parents divorced. DiCaprio was largely reared by his mother, a German-born legal secretary. DiCaprio remained close to his father, a comic book artist and distributor, despite his parents’ early divorce. DiCaprio developed his artistic side at the suggestion of his parents, acquiring an early interest in acting. “I loved imitating people … I loved joking around with my parents and creating different characters. I liked doing my own little homemade skits,” DiCaprio told Backstage. But he didn’t have much success in Hollywood until he reached his early teens.
For years, DiCaprio struggled to find an agency. One agency even suggested DiCaprio change his name to Lenny Williams in order to increase his appeal. Yet, by the early 1990s, the budding actor was securing regular television work. His early credits include appearances on shows like The New Lassie and Roseanne. He was also cast in the tragic comedy Parenthood.
While the show was short-lived, DiCaprio apparently met fellow actor Tobey Maguire while filming it, and the two have stayed close ever since. DiCaprio’s career took a step forward in 1991, when he was cast as a semi-regular on the family sitcom Growing Pains, alongside Kirk Cameron and Alan Thicke. He made his cinematic debut in the low-budget horror picture Critters 3 the same year, but he didn’t get the chance to show off his serious acting skills until two years later.
‘This Boy’s Life’
DiCaprio starred in This Boy’s Life alongside Robert De Niro, proving he was more than simply a good-looking youngster. In this adaption of Tobias Wolff’s biography, the film delves into the tough connection between a young child and his abusive stepfather. Critics praised DiCaprio for holding his own against acting heavyweight Robert De Niro.
‘What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?’
DiCaprio made another impression in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? (1993), co-starring Johnny Depp. He was nominated for an Oscar Award for Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of a child with mental difficulties. The praise he earned for this film cemented DiCaprio’s image as a rising star.
‘The Basketball Diaries’ and ‘Romeo + Juliet’
DiCaprio continued to work on exciting and different film projects, including the 1995 coming-of-age drama The Basketball Diaries and the Western The Quick and the Dead, which he co-wrote with Russell Crowe, Sharon Stone, and Gene Hackman. DiCaprio plays Romeo to Claire Danes’ Juliet in Baz Luhrmann’s modern rendition of William Shakespeare’s tragic love story, Romeo and Juliet (1996).
Another sad love story helped boost DiCaprio’s career to new heights in 1997. In James Cameron’s Titanic, about the disaster of the titular ocean liner, he co-starred with Kate Winslet. He plays Jack in the film, a lowly artist who falls for the rich and gorgeous Rose (Winslet) on board. The duo is threatened not only by Rose’s fiancé (Billy Zane), but also by the ship itself after it collides with an iceberg. It was the most expensive film ever filmed at the time, with a production budget exceeding $200 million.
Titanic was a critical and commercial success. It received 14 Academy Award nominations and won 11 of them, including Best Picture and Best Director. It was the first picture to sell a billion dollars internationally.
The film’s popularity also demonstrated DiCaprio’s ability to play typical Hollywood leading men. His charm and young good looks landed him on People magazine’s list of the “50 Most Beautiful People” in 1997 and 1998, and he swiftly became a world-famous celebrity with a burgeoning fan base.
Scorsese Muse: ‘The Aviator’ to ‘The Departed’
Following Titanic, DiCaprio experienced a bit of a professional lull, with The Man in the Iron Mask (1998) and The Beach (2000) both proving to be financial and aesthetic disappointments. Nonetheless, DiCaprio quickly recovered. He proved his versatility as an actor in two notable 2002 films, Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me if You Can and Gangs of New York. The latter was the first of many projects DiCaprio would collaborate on with legendary director Martin Scorsese.
DiCaprio takes on the challenge of playing one of America’s most famous businesspeople in Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator (2004), getting another Academy Award nomination for his depiction of the eccentric and reclusive Howard Hughes. In 2006, he starred in two successful films, Blood Diamond and The Departed. Blood Diamond, a gripping thriller about the chase of a priceless gem in war-torn Sierra Leone, earned DiCaprio his third Academy Award nomination. He co-starred with Matt Damon and Jack Nicholson in the gripping Scorsese-directed crime saga The Departed.
‘Revolutionary Road,’ ‘Inception’ and ‘Shutter Island’
DiCaprio reunited with Winslet in Revolutionary Road, a suspenseful picture about a 1950s suburban couple dealing with a slew of emotional issues. In Christopher Nolan’s Inception (2010), he imagined a fanciful future in which technology allows people to invade the dreams of others. The next year, DiCaprio starred in Martin Scorsese’s thriller Shutter Island.
In the 2011 biographical drama J. Edgar, DiCaprio played another famous man. Clint Eastwood’s film examines the life of J. Edgar Hoover, who led the FBI for over five decades. DiCaprio undertook significant research for the role and visited many of Hoover’s haunts in Washington, D.C. “I really enjoy playing historical individuals because there’s so much very diverse, interesting information about a character when you can explore their lives,” he told Backstage. “A lot of the stuff you couldn’t make up as a writer.”
In 2012, DiCaprio starred alongside Jamie Foxx, Kerry Washington, and Christoph Waltz in Quentin Tarantino’s Western Django Unchained. He re-teamed with Luhrmann the following year to play one of literature’s most intriguing characters, Jay Gatsby, in the adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece The Great Gatsby.
‘The Wolf of Wall Street’
DiCaprio collaborated with Scorsese once more in the 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street, which was based on Jordan Belfort’s biography about scamming investors while padding his own pockets in the 1990s. DiCaprio’s performance as Jordan Belfort won him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor, as well as Academy Award nominations for Best Actor and Best Film. The film also starred Jonah Hill, Margot Robbie, and Matthew McConaughey.
Wolf later provoked legal wranglings, with a former Belfort partner, Andrew Greene, claiming that the film’s character was “portrayed as a criminal, drug addict, degenerate, depraved, and/or devoid of any morality or ethics.” He sued the film’s production firms, including Paramount Pictures, Red Granite Pictures, Scorsese’s Sikelia Productions, and DiCaprio’s Appian Way Productions.
Oscar Win for ‘The Revenant’
DiCaprio featured in The Revenant in late 2015 as Hugh Glass, an 1820s frontiersman forced to endure the wilderness after being left for dead. The film, directed by Alejandro González Iárritu, was tough to shoot due to the cold weather, but it quickly garnered significant awards hype, getting a flurry of Golden Globe nominations. After winning Best Actor, the popular DiCaprio received a standing ovation from his colleagues and lauded Iárritu for his vision, while also advocating for assistance for Indigenous people and environmental conservation.
“Making The Revenant was about man’s relationship to the natural world. A world that we collectively felt in 2015 as the hottest year in recorded history. … Climate change is real, it is happening right now,” he said. “It is the most urgent threat facing our entire species, and we need to work collectively together and stop procrastinating. We need to support leaders around the world who do not speak for the big polluters, but who speak for all of humanity, for the Indigenous people of the world, for the billions and billions of underprivileged people out there who would be most affected by this.”
‘Once Upon a Time in Hollywood’
DiCaprio signed up to act in Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in early 2018, which is said to be based on the circumstances surrounding the legendary Charles Manson murders of 1969. Despite the fact that many of the characters in the film are based on real individuals, including actress Sharon Tate (played by Margot Robbie), DiCaprio ended up portraying Rick Dalton, a floundering actor who confides in his longtime stunt double, played by Brad Pitt. Following its May 2019 premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, the film reportedly received a seven-minute standing ovation.
Environmental Films and Foundation
DiCaprio has long been vocal about environmental problems, as evidenced by his Globe and Oscar speeches. He organized an Environment Day celebration in 2000 and spoke with former President Bill Clinton for a televised piece about global warming. DiCaprio also authored, narrated, and produced The 11th Hour, an environmental documentary released in 2007, and was actively involved in the creation of the 2016 climate change documentary Before the Flood.
The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF), a foundation that promotes and raises awareness for a variety of environmental problems, was founded by the actor. In addition, he has served on the boards of the World Wildlife Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
DiCaprio was an executive producer on the History Channel’s eight-part docuseries The Frontiersman, which looked back at America’s most renowned pioneers who helped shape the country, in March 2018.
DiCaprio has spent much of his career in the spotlight due to his personal life. From 2000 until 2005, his on-again, off-again romance with supermodel Gisele Bündchen provided material for celebrity magazines and websites. For numerous years, DiCaprio dated model Bar Refaeli. He was briefly related to actress Blake Lively in 2011. He’s reportedly dated several models since then.