Leonardo Wilhelm DiCaprio is an American actor, film producer, and environmentalist. His accolades include an Academy Award and three Golden Globe Awards.
DiCaprio began his career by appearing in television commercials in the late 1980s. He next had recurring roles in various television series, such as the soap opera Santa Barbara and the sitcom Growing Pains. He debuted in his film career by starring as Josh in Critters 3 (1991). He starred in the film adaptation of the memoir This Boy's Life (1993), and received acclaim and his first Academy Award nomination for his supporting role in What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993). He gained public recognition with leading roles in The Basketball Diaries (1995) and the romantic drama Romeo + Juliet (1996). He achieved international fame as a star in James Cameron's epic romance Titanic (1997), which became the highest-grossing film of all time to that point.
DiCaprio's portrayals of Howard Hughes in The Aviator (2004) and Hugh Glass in The Revenant (2015) won him the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama. His performance as Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) won him the Golden Globe award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. He also won the Academy Award and BAFTA Award for Best Actor for his performance in The Revenant. DiCaprio is the founder of his own production company, Appian Way Productions.
1979–1990: Career beginnings
In 1979, DiCaprio was removed, at the age of five, from the set of the children's television series Romper Room for being disruptive. He began his career by appearing in several commercials and educational films, following his older stepbrother Adam Farrar into television commercials, and landing an ad at age 14 for Matchbox cars by Mattel, which he considered his first role. Throughout his teens he was seen in commercials for Kraft Foods, Bubble Yum, Apple Jacks, and many more. In 1989, he played the role of Glen in two episodes of the television show The New Lassie.
In 1990, he started acting regularly on television. This started with a role in the pilot of The Outsiders, and one episode of the soap opera Santa Barbara, playing the young Mason Capwell. That same year, DiCaprio got a break on television when he was cast in Parenthood, a series based on a successful comedy film by the same name. His works that year earned him two nomination at the Young Artist Award in Best Young Actor in a Daytime Series (Santa Barbara) and Best Young Actor Starring in a New Television Series (Parenthood). DiCaprio was also a celebrity contestant on the children's game show Fun House. One of the stunts he performed on the show was going fishing in a small pool of water by catching the fish only with his teeth.
1991–1996: Major projects and breakthrough
In 1991, he played an un-credited role in one episode of Roseanne. Later that year, DiCaprio's debut film role was in the comedic science fiction 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 March that year, the movie went direct-to-video. Shortly after, he became a recurring cast member on the successful ABC sitcom Growing Pains, playing Luke Brower, a homeless boy who is taken in by the Seaver family. DiCaprio was nominated for the Young Artist Award for Best Young Actor Co-starring in a Television Series.
In 1992, alongside Drew Barrymore, Sara Gilbert, Tom Skerritt, and Cheryl Ladd, he played a supporting role in the first installment of the Poison Ivy film series. It was nominated for the 1992 Grand Jury prize of Best Film at the Sundance Film Festival and received a nomination at the Independent Spirit Awards. In 1992, DiCaprio was handpicked by Robert De Niro out of 400 young actors to play the lead role in This Boy's Life adapted from Tobias Wolff's memoir of the same name. He played opposite De Niro, who was acting as his stepfather, and Ellen Barkin as his mother. The film was directed by Michael Caton-Jones and released in 1993.
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 who auditioned. Budgeted at US$11 million, the film became a critical success, resulting in various accolades for DiCaprio, who was awarded the National Board of Review Award and nominated for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for his portrayal. The 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 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. He next starred in Agnieszka Holland' Total Eclipse, which he co-lead with David Thewlis. The feature is a fictionalized account of the homosexual relationship between Arthur Rimbaud (DiCaprio) and Paul Verlaine (Thewlis). He replaced River Phoenix, who died during pre-production on the project. A minor art-house success, the film grossed US$0.34 million throughout its domestic theatrical run. His last film of the year 1995 was The Basketball Diaries, co- starring Lorraine Bracco, James Madio, and Mark Wahlberg. It is a biographical film, in which DiCaprio plays Jim Carroll in his teenage years as a promising high school basketball player and writer who developed an addiction to heroin with his misguided friends.
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.
1997–2001: International stardom
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 $1.84 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". In May 1998, for example, his face appeared on the covers of at least four teen magazines, and three books about DiCaprio were among the top six paperbacks on The New York Times Best Seller list. More than 200 fans contacted the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to protest him 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 played a self-mocking role in a small appearance in Woody Allen's caustic satire of the fame industry, Celebrity (1998). It features an ensemble cast that consists of Kenneth Branagh, Judy Davis, Winona Ryder, Melanie Griffith, Joe Mantegna, Charlize Theron, Hank Azaria, Famke Janssen, Donald Trump, etc.
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," he was awarded a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Screen Couple for both incarnations the following year.
DiCaprio's next project was the drama film The Beach (2000), an adaption of Alex Garland's 1996 novel of the same name. 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 $ US 50 million, the film became a financial success, grossing $ US 144 million worldwide, but as with DiCaprio's previous project, the film was negatively reviewed 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.
In the mid 1990s, 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 costar Tobey 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.
2002–2009: Continued success and producing
DiCaprio's first film of 2002 was 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.
Also in 2002, DiCaprio appeared 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 favorable 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.
In 2004 DiCaprio took his first producing task in Niels Mueller' The Assassination of Richard Nixon, as one of the executives. It stars Sean Penn, Don Cheadle, Jack Thompson and Naomi Watts, and is based on the story of would-be assassin Samuel Byck, who plotted to kill Richard Nixon in 1974. It received a Un Certain Regard nomination at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. It won and was nominated for many Awards in the festival circuit. 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 working on back-to-back biopics; 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 2007, DiCaprio produced Gardener of Eden directed by Kevin Connolly. It stars Lukas Haas, Erika Christensen and Giovanni Ribisi. The film is about Adam Harris (Haas), a twenty-something college dropout lacking real direction in his life. Adam's life changes dramatically when he accidentally captures a serial rapist. The new-found attention inspires him to become a vigilante. Shortly after saw the release of The 11th Hour. A documentary film which he created, produced, co-written and narrated. With contributions from over 50 politicians, scientists, and environmental activists, including former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, physicist Stephen Hawking, Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, journalist Armand Betscher, and Paul Hawken, the film documents the grave problems facing the planet's life systems. Global warming, deforestation, mass species extinction, and depletion of the oceans' habitats are all addressed. The film's premise is that the future of humanity is in jeopardy. The film proposes potential solutions to these problems by calling for restorative action by the reshaping and rethinking of global human activity through technology, social responsibilityand conservation.
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. Later that 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. Also in 2008, he was a creator and an executive producer for Greensburg an American television series broadcast on the Planet Green television network. The show takes place in Greensburg, Kansas, and is about rebuilding the town in a sustainable way after being hit by the May 2007 EF5 tornado. He was a producer for the psychological horror thriller film Orphan directed by Jaume Collet-Serra. The film stars Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard, Isabelle Fuhrman, C. C. H. Pounder and Jimmy Bennett. The plot centers on a couple who, after the death of their unborn child, adopt a mysterious 9-year-old girl.
2010–present: Current works
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, also starring Marion Cotillard, Tom Hardy, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Cillian Murphy, Ken Watanabe, Tom Berenger and Michael Caine. 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. The movie went on to become Di Caprio's second highest-grossing movie with $293 million at the box office, after Titanic with $659 million and ahead of The Revenant with $184 million.
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." Also in 2011, he produced Catherine Hardwicke' Red Riding Hood. It's a romance horror film very loosely based on the folk tale Little Red Riding Hood. It stars Amanda Seyfried in the title role. Co-stars include Gary Oldman, Billy Burke, Virginia Madsen, Shiloh Fernandez, etc. He was also an executive producer for The Ides of March (2011), an American political drama film directed by George Clooney. The film is an adaptation of Willimon's 2008 play Farragut North. It stars Ryan Gosling, George Clooney, Evan Rachel Wood, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Marisa Tomei, Paul Giamatti, and Jeffrey Wright.
In 2012, DiCaprio starred as villainous Calvin Candie in Quentin Tarantino's spaghetti western, Django Unchained. While filming Django Unchained, DiCaprio accidentally cut his hand on glass, but continued filming despite the injury, and Tarantino elected to use the take in the final movie. 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 directed him in Romeo + Juliet, 1996), an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel, also starring Carey Mulligan, Joel Edgerton 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 film 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. He was also nominated the same year for producing as the film was nominated for Best Picture. 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."
Also in 2013 he produced the crime thriller film, Brad Furman's Runner Runner. It stars Justin Timberlake, Ben Affleck, Gemma Arterton and Anthony Mackie. Some parts of this narrative are based on the life of Nat Arem, a professional poker player and former accountant at Deloitte Touche who helped uncover cheating in online poker by using statistical methods to analyze thousands of games. Shortly after he produced Out of the Furnace (2013), the film stars Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, Woody Harrelson, Zoe Saldana, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe, and Sam Shepard. The film is about a Pennsylvania steel mill worker Russell Baze (Bale) and his Iraq War veteran brother Rodney (Affleck), who cannot adjust to civilian life. While Rodney makes some money doing bareknuckle fights for bar owner and small-time criminal John Petty (Dafoe), who runs illegal gambling operations, Rodney becomes so indebted due to his own gambling losses that he begs Petty to let him do a big money fight. After Petty reluctantly arranges for Rodney to do a fight for a ruthless criminal gang in the backwoods, Rodney disappears, and his brother tries to find out what has happened to him.
He was an executive producer on Virunga a 2014 British documentary film directed by Orlando von Einsiedel. It focuses on the conservation work of park rangers within the Congo's Virunga National Park during the rise of the violent M23 Rebellion in 2012 and investigates the activity of the British oil company Soco International within the UNESCO World Heritage site. Soco International ended up officially exploring oil opportunities in Virunga in April 2014. The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 17, 2014. After airing on Netflix, it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret is a 2014 documentary film for which he was also an executive producer. It explores the impact of animal agriculture on the environment, and investigates the policies of environmental organizations on this issue. The film looks at various environmental concerns, including global warming, water use, deforestation, and ocean dead zones, and suggests that animal agriculture is the primary source of environmental destruction.
In 2015, DiCaprio played fur trapper Hugh Glass in the survival drama The Revenant, directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu. The film was well received by critics and DiCaprio's performance garnered universal acclaim that earned him numerous awards, including his first Academy Awards win for Best Actor, his eleventh nomination and third Golden Globe win; winning for Best Actor Drama, and his first BAFTA, SAG and Critic's Choice Award win all for Best Actor. Also in 2015, he was an executive producer for Catching the Sun, a documentary film on the growth of the solar power industry that premiered on Netflix in April 2016. Directed by Shalini Kantayya, the film features portraits of diverse personalities and their roles in the transition to solar power. Unemployed workers in Richmond, California, businessmen in China, Tea Party activists, and a would-be White House advisor are all featured in the film. The film takes the position that clean energy does not require sacrificing economic prosperity.
He started 2016 by being an executive producer for The Ivory Game, a documentary film. The film examines the ivory trade, which has become a global concern, pitting governments and environmental preservationists against poachers and Chinese ivory merchants. That same year he was one of the producers, hosted, and narrated the documentary Before the Flood about climate change directed by Fisher Stevens. The film shows DiCaprio visiting various regions of the globe exploring the impact of man-made global warming. As a narrator, DiCaprio comments these encounters as well as archive footage. Also in 2016, Live by Night was produced by DiCaprio. A crime drama film written, directed, produced by and starring Ben Affleck. Based on the 2012 novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, the film follows an Ybor City bootlegger (Affleck) who becomes a notorious gangster. The film also stars Elle Fanning, Brendan Gleeson, Chris Messina, Sienna Miller, Zoe Saldana and Chris Cooper.
In 2018, he produced Delirium, a psychological horror film directed by Dennis Iliadis. It stars Topher Grace, Patricia Clarkson, Callan Mulvey and Genesis Rodriguez. The film is about a man (Grace) who inherits a mansion from his deceased wealthy father after being released from a mental institution. Strange events lead him to wonder if the house is haunted or if his mind is playing tricks on him. In 2019, DiCaprio will star as Rick Dalton, an aging TV actor, in Quentin Tarantino's upcoming film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood about the Manson Family murders. He also narrated the 2019 documentary Ice on Fire.
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