BIO: Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio has come a long way since the days when a mention of his name conjured up an image of a kid throwing a tantrum - something he seemed to do exceptionally well. So well, I'm sure he asked that a tantrum scene be written into every movie he made before he'd take the part.

He started out his acting career in television, staring in Romper Room, Parenthood and the soapie Santa Barbara but his movie breakthrough came with a co-starring role in What's Eating Gilbert Grape and he landed the lead in The Basketball Diaries (see: tantrums).

Things have changed, as he begins taking more adult roles rather than simply fulfilling the giant River Phoenix-shaped gap in the camera-fodder market. Romeo & Juliet (1996) got him in with the arty bunch. Titanic (1997) served to establish him as a heartthrob who appealed mainly to ladies in lavender but also as an A-List star.

DiCaprio didn't make the mistake of taking role after role as a romantic figure, and instead worked with critically acclaimed directors on the quirky and often overlooked Catch Me If You Can (Steven Spielberg), and the laboured but informative Gangs of New York (Martin Scorsese). Later, The Aviator (2004) showed he could also pick roles in entertaining politically relevant movies, and actually act... while throwing the odd tantrum and drinking a lot of milk.

When you make two critically acclaimed movies in one year - Blood Diamond and The Departed - and get Golden Globe nominations for both, you're no longer just a pretty face. We've yet to see if Leo will score Oscar nominations or wins for these movies, but the hardcore new direction his career is taking may land him a space in that sought after scene - alongside serious actors who're also wildly popular and adored and whose careers span not just decades, but lifetimes. Think Jack Nicolson, George Clooney and those guys.

What's next? Directing? A scriptwriting credit? Or sticking to what he's already so good at? We'll wait and see.

Trivia

At age five he starred in a TV series called Romper Room and was nearly fired for misbehaving.

At age 10, his agent advised him to change his name to a more American- friendly Lenny Williams - advice he clearly ignored.

His favourite food is pasta.

He once turned the tables on the Paparazzi and began chasing them.

After Titanic and big fame, the former Afghanistani government banned 'DiCaprio style' haircuts.

Though he claims to like ordinary girls, he mainly takes supershmodels on dates, while the waitresses languish at home. Gossips link him to Naomi Campbell, Eva Herzigova and others.

He managed to stop Playgirl publishing nude photos of him.

But he's not always that selfish. He supports mild progressive policies and moderate environmental causes.

He is of half-German half-Italian heritage and is named for a statue of Leonardo Da Vinci that his mother was looking at the moment he first kicked in the womb.

Quotes

"At first I thought I would have to put on an English accent and try a sort of affected Shakespeare thing."

"Dad, I really want to become an actor, but if this is what it's all about, I don't want to do it. "

"Don't think for a moment that I'm really like any of the characters I've played. I'm not. That's why it's called 'acting'. "

"Drugs? Every one has a choice and I choose not to do drugs."

"I couldn't deal with playing a character who rides motorcycles and has a leather jacket and is a tough kid, y'know? "

"I hate it... I feel that when I see myself and these other cute faces, I'm just part of this meat factory."

"I prefer ordinary girls - you know, college students, waitresses, that sort of thing. Most of the girls I go out with are just good friends. Just because I go out to the cinema with a girl, it doesn't mean we are dating. "

"I really don't know what I'm doing... I don't. It's terrible. I go in there and I learn how to be like the character and do the best I can, and that's all I really do."

"I want to be a jerk like the rest of my friends, and have fun, and not care about the consequences, but I just can't now."

"I was dreading winning. I didn't even plan a speech-I was worried that I would slip up or do something horrible. I was shaking in my seat, putting on a posed smile. Inside I was petrified."

"I'm probably not going to get married unless I live with somebody for 10 or 20 years. But these people (Romeo and Juliet) took a chance and they did it. We don't have the balls that Romeo did."

"It's easy to fall into the trap of believing all the hype that's written about you... Who knows? In a couple of years, you might find me in the loony bin!"

"My career should adapt to me. Fame is like a VIP pass wherever you want to go."

"My dad's probably one of the kindest people in the world. When I was younger that's not how I was- I was a little spoiled brat."

Abridged filmography

This Boy's Life (1993)
The Basketball Diaries (1993)
Marvin's Room (1996)
Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Titanic (1997)
Gangs of New York (2002)
Catch Me If You Can (2002)
The Aviator (2004)
The Departed (2006)
Blood Diamond (2006)

- Jean Barker

Sources: Thanks to Wikipedia, Brainyquote.com and IMDB

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