Leonardo Wilhelm DiCaprio (//, Italian: [diˈkaːprjo]; born November 11, 1974) is an American actor, film producer and environmentalist. He has often played unconventional roles, particularly in biopics and period films. As of 2019, his films have grossed US$7.2 billion worldwide, and he has placed eight times in annual rankings of the highest-paid actors in the world.
Born in Los Angeles, DiCaprio began his career by appearing in television commercials in the late 1980s. In the early 1990s, he played recurring roles in various television series, such as the sitcom Parenthood. He had his first major film role in This Boy's Life (1993) and received acclaim for his supporting role as a developmentally disabled boy in What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993). He achieved international stardom in the epic romance Titanic (1997), which became the highest-grossing film to that point. After a few commercially unsuccessful films, DiCaprio starred in two successful features in 2002: the biographical crime drama Catch Me If You Can and the historical drama Gangs of New York, which marked his first of many collaborations with director Martin Scorsese.
DiCaprio portrayed Howard Hughes in The Aviator (2004) and continued to receive acclaim for his performances in the political thriller Blood Diamond (2006), the crime drama The Departed (2006), and the romantic drama Revolutionary Road (2008). In the 2010s, he starred in the science fiction thriller Inception (2010), the western Django Unchained (2012), the biopic The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), the survival drama The Revenant (2015), and the comedy-drama Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019), all of which were critical and commercial successes. His accolades include an Academy Award, a BAFTA, and a Golden Globe Award for The Revenant as well as two other Golden Globes for The Aviator and The Wolf of Wall Street.
DiCaprio is the founder of Appian Way Productions—a production company that has produced some of his films and the documentary series Greensburg (2008–2010)—and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, a non-profit organization devoted to promoting environmental awareness. He regularly supports charitable causes and has produced several documentaries on the environment. In 2005, he was named the commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for his contributions to the arts, and in 2016, he was listed as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time.
Early life and acting background
Leonardo Wilhelm DiCaprio was born on November 11, 1974 in Los Angeles, California, the only child of Irmelin (née Indenbirken), a legal secretary, and George DiCaprio, an underground comix writer, publisher, and distributor of comic books. DiCaprio's father is of Italian and German descent. DiCaprio is conversant in Italian. DiCaprio's maternal grandfather, Wilhelm Indenbirken, was German, and his maternal grandmother, Helene Indenbirken, was a Russian-born German citizen. In an interview in Russia, DiCaprio referred to himself as "half-Russian" and said that two of his late grandparents were Russian. DiCaprio's parents met while attending college and moved to Los Angeles after graduating. Leonardo DiCaprio was raised Catholic.
DiCaprio was named Leonardo because his pregnant mother was looking at a Leonardo da Vinci painting in the Uffizi museum in Florence, Italy when he first kicked. His parents separated when he was a year old; they initially agreed to live next door to each other so as not to deprive DiCaprio of his father's presence in his life. However, DiCaprio and his mother later moved around to multiple Los Angeles neighborhoods, such as Echo Park and Los Feliz, while the latter worked several jobs. He attended Seeds Elementary School and later went to John Marshall High School a few blocks away after attending the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies for four years. DiCaprio has said that he hated public school and often asked his mother to take him to auditions instead to improve their financial situation. He dropped out of high school following his third year, eventually earning his general equivalency diploma (GED).
DiCaprio has said his career choice as a child was to become a marine biologist or an actor, but he eventually favored the latter, as he was fond of impersonating characters and imitating people. When he was two, he went on stage at a performance festival and danced spontaneously; the cheerful response from the crowd started his interest in performing. When his older stepbrother earned $50,000 for a television commercial, DiCaprio, fascinated with this, decided to become an actor. 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 appearing in several commercials at age 14 for Matchbox cars by Mattel, which he considered his first role, and later for Kraft Foods, Bubble Yum, and Apple Jacks. In 1989, he played the role of Glen in two episodes of the television show The New Lassie.
At the beginning of his career, DiCaprio had difficulty finding an agent. One agent suggested he change his name to Lenny Williams to appeal to the American audience, which he declined to do. He remained jobless for a year and a half even after 100 auditions. Disillusioned at this, he initially decided to quit acting, but his father encouraged him not to give up, and he needed the money to support his mother. By the early 1990s, he began acting regularly on television, starting with a role in the pilot of The Outsiders (1990) and one episode of the soap opera Santa Barbara (1990), in which he played the young Mason Capwell. DiCaprio got a break that year when he was cast in Parenthood, a series based on a successful comedy film of the same name. Before being cast in the role of Garry Buckman, a troubled teenager, he analyzed Joaquin Phoenix's performance in the original film. His work that year earned him two nominations at the 12th Youth in Film Awards—Best Young Actor in a Daytime Series for Santa Barbara and Best Young Actor Starring in a New Television Series for Parenthood. DiCaprio was also a celebrity contestant on the children's game show Fun House, on which he performed several stunts, including catching the fish inside a small pool using only his teeth.
1991–1996: Career beginnings
In 1991, DiCaprio played an un-credited role in one episode of Roseanne. He made his film debut later that year as the stepson of an evil landlord in the low-budget horror direct-to-video film Critters 3, a role he described as "your average, no-depth, standard kid with blond hair." DiCaprio prefers not to remember his role in Critters 3, which he describes as "possibly one of the worst films of all time. I guess it was a good example to look back and make sure it doesn't happen again." Later that year, he became a recurring cast member on the sitcom Growing Pains, playing Luke Brower, a homeless boy who is taken in by the Seaver family. Costar Joanna Kerns recalls DiCaprio being "especially intelligent and disarming for his age" but also mischievous on set. The teenage DiCaprio was cast by the producers to appeal to the teenage female audiences, but when the show's ratings did not improve, DiCaprio left it. He was nominated for a Young Artist Award for Best Young Actor Co-starring in a Television Series.
In 1992, DiCaprio played a supporting role in the first installment of the Poison Ivy film series, and was handpicked by Robert De Niro out of 400 young actors to play the lead role in Michael Caton-Jones's This Boy's Life. He played opposite De Niro, who was acting as his stepfather, and Ellen Barkin as his mother. Caton-Jones has said DiCaprio did not know how to behave on set; he applied a strict mentoring style that he said resulted in improvements in DiCaprio's behavior. Bilge Ebiri of Rolling Stone found it "an evocative, touching little movie, defined by the powerful bond between Barkin and DiCaprio", praising his complex growth from "a wide-eyed son to a rebellious greaser to an independent, sensitive young man".
In 1993, DiCaprio co-starred as the intellectually disabled 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 cast DiCaprio when he contacted Caton-Jones and he had emerged as "the most observant actor" among all who auditioned. The film became a critical success, earning DiCaprio a National Board of Review Award for Best Supporting Actor and nominations for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award. "The film's real show-stopping turn comes from Mr. DiCaprio", wrote The New York Times critic Janet Maslin, "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." Caryn James, also writing for The New York Times, said of his performances in This Boy's Life and What's Eating Gilbert Grape: "He made the raw, emotional neediness of those boys completely natural and powerful."
DiCaprio's first effort of 1995 was in Sam Raimi's western film The Quick and the Dead. Sony Pictures was dubious over DiCaprio's casting, and as a result, costar Sharon Stone paid his salary herself. The film was released to a dismal box office performance, barely grossing $18.5 million in the US, and received mixed reviews from critics. DiCaprio's next film in 1995 was The Basketball Diaries, a biopic, in which he played a teenage Jim Carroll as a drug-addicted high school basketball player and writer. DiCaprio next starred alongside David Thewlis in Agnieszka Holland's erotic drama Total Eclipse, a fictionalized account of the homosexual relationship between Arthur Rimbaud (DiCaprio) and Paul Verlaine (Thewlis). He replaced River Phoenix, who died before filming began. The film grossed only about $340,000 against its €6-million budget, but has been included in the catalogue of Warner Archive Collection.
In 1996, DiCaprio starred 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 grossed $147 million worldwide, and earned DiCaprio a Silver Bear for Best Actor at the 1997 Berlin International Film Festival. Later that year, DiCaprio starred in Marvin's Room, a family drama revolving 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. On his performance, Lisa Schwarzbaum of Entertainment Weekly commented: "The deeply gifted DiCaprio [...] keeps right up with these older pros [Keaton and Streep]. The three are so full-bodied and so powerfully affecting that you're carried along on the pleasure of being in the presence of their extraordinary talent." Reviewing his works of his early career, David Thomson of The Guardian called DiCaprio "a revelation" in What's Eating Gilbert Grape, "very moving" in This Boy's Life, "suitably desperate" in The Basketball Diaries and "a vital spark" in Romeo + Juliet.
1997–2001: Titanic and stardom
DiCaprio turned down an offer to star in the film Boogie Nights (1997) to star opposite Kate Winslet in James Cameron's Titanic (1997) as members of different social classes who fall in love aboard RMS Titanic during its ill-fated maiden voyage. DiCaprio initially had doubts about playing the role, but was eventually encouraged to pursue the part by Cameron, who strongly believed in his acting ability. With a production budget of more than $200 million, the film was the most expensive ever made and was shot at Rosarito Beach where a replica of the ship was created. Against expectations, Titanic went on to become the highest-grossing film to that point, eventually grossing more than $2.1 billion in box-office receipts worldwide, and transformed DiCaprio into a superstar, resulting in intense adoration among teenage girls and young women in general that became known as "Leo-Mania". The film won 11 Academy Awards—the most for any film—including Best Picture, but DiCaprio's failure to gain a nomination led to a protest against the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences by more than 200 fans. He was nominated for other high-profile awards, including a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor.
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." John Hiscock of The Daily Telegraph compared DiCaprio's popularity during that time to that of the Beatles' in the 1960s. Bilge Ebiri called his role in the film his best in 2015, writing that DiCaprio and Winslet "infuse their earnest back-and-forth with so much genuine emotion that it's hard not to get swept up in their doomed love affair".
DiCaprio played a self-mocking role in a small appearance in Woody Allen's caustic satire of the fame industry, Celebrity (1998), whom Bilge Ebiri labeled "the best thing in the film". 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. The film received mixed to negative response, but became a box office success, grossing $180 million internationally. Entertainment Weekly critic Owen Gleiberman wrote that DiCaprio did not look old enough to play the part, but praised him as "a fluid and instinctive actor, with the face of a mischievous angel". DiCaprio was awarded a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Screen Couple for both incarnations the following year.
DiCaprio was cast in American Psycho (2000) in 1998 for a reported salary of $20 million, but left the project soon after when he failed to agree with Oliver Stone on the film's direction and took the lead role in The Beach instead. The latter, an adaption of Alex Garland's 1996 novel of the same name, saw him play an American backpacking tourist looking for the perfect way of life in a secret island commune in the Gulf of Thailand. Budgeted at $50 million, the film earned about three times more at the box office, but was negatively reviewed by critics, and earned him a nomination for the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Actor. Todd McCarthy of Variety noted that his character is "too much the American Everyman" and "DiCaprio, while perfectly watchable," failed to give the character the unique marks to make him dimensional.
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, DiCaprio and costar Tobey Maguire had its release blocked by court order, arguing 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: Move into film production
DiCaprio turned down the role of Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002). His first film that year was the biographical crime drama Catch Me If You Can, based on the life of Frank Abagnale Jr., who before his 19th birthday committed check fraud to make millions in the 1960s. Directed by Steven Spielberg, the film was shot across 147 different locations in 52 days, making it "the most adventurous, super-charged movie-making" DiCaprio had experienced yet. The film received critical acclaim and was an international box office success, becoming DiCaprio's highest-grossing release since Titanic with $351 million worldwide. Roger Ebert praised his performance, and found his departure from dark and troubled characters "breezy and charming", while two Entertainment Weekly critics in 2018 called it DiCaprio's best role, labeling him "delightfully persuasive, deceptive, flirtatious, and sometimes tragic—and we dare you to find a better role, if you can". DiCaprio received his third Golden Globe nomination for his performance in the film.
Also in 2002, DiCaprio starred in Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York, a historical drama 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 an Irish-American street gang, and thus Miramax Films got involved with financing the project. Nonetheless production on the film was plagued by blown-out budgets and producer-director disagreements, resulting in an eight-month shoot and, at $103 million, the most expensive film Scorsese had ever made. Gangs of New York earned $193 million worldwide and received positive critical response. DiCaprio's performance, although well-received, was overshadowed by that of Daniel Day-Lewis according to many critics.
In 2004, DiCaprio founded the production company Appian Way Productions, taking its name from the Italian road of the same name. He was interested in finding "out of the box" material from an actor's perspective and developing it in a way that stayed true to its original source. He said, "A lot of times, I'd gone through the process of getting a great book or finding a great story, and then too many people get their hands on it and it turns into something entirely different. It is very difficult to reverse that process." DiCaprio's first producing task was as an executive producer in Niels Mueller' The Assassination of Richard Nixon, starring Sean Penn as Samuel Byck, who attempted to assassinate US president Richard Nixon in 1974. It was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival. DiCaprio and Scorsese reunited for a biopic of the eccentric and obsessive American film director and aviation pioneer Howard Hughes in The Aviator (2004), which DiCaprio also co-produced under Appian Way. DiCaprio initially developed the project with Michael Mann, who decided against directing it after working on biopics The Insider (1999) and Ali (2001). DiCaprio eventually pitched John Logan's script to Scorsese, who quickly signed on to direct. The Aviator became a critical and financial success. Simond Braund of Empire wrote DiCaprio stood out in scenes depicting Hughes' paranoia and obsession, "dispelling fears that he hasn't the weight to carry such a complex, forceful role". He received a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor and his first Academy Award for Best Actor nomination.
In 2006, DiCaprio starred in the crime film The Departed and the political war thriller Blood Diamond. In Scorsese's The Departed DiCaprio played the role of Billy Costigan, a state trooper working undercover in the Irish Mob in Boston, someone he characterizes as in a "constant, 24-hour panic attack". DiCaprio especially liked the experience of working with costar Jack Nicholson, describing a scene with him as "one of the most memorable moments" of his life as an actor. In preparation, DiCaprio visited Boston to interact with people associated with the Irish Mob and gained 15 pounds (6.8 kg) of muscle. Highly anticipated, the film was released to positive reviews and became one of the highest-rated wide release films of 2006. Peter Travers of Rolling Stone praised DiCaprio's and costar Matt Damon's "explosive, emotionally complex performances", but felt that Nicholson overshadowed the two. Budgeted at $90 million, the film grossed $291 million and emerged as DiCaprio and Scorsese's highest-grossing collaboration to date. His performance in The Departed also earned him a Satellite Award for Best Supporting Actor.
In Blood Diamond, DiCaprio starred as a diamond smuggler from Rhodesia who is involved in the Sierra Leone Civil War. While filming, he worked with 24 orphaned children from the SOS Children's Village in Maputo, Mozambique, and said he was touched by his interactions with them. To prepare, he spent six months in Africa, learned about camouflage from people in South African military and interviewed and recorded people in the country to improve his South African accent. The film received generally favorable reviews, and DiCaprio was praised for the authenticity of his South African accent, known as difficult to imitate. Claudia Puig of the USA Today called it "the first time the boyish actor has truly seemed like a man on film" and Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post positively noted his growth as an actor since The Departed. Both the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild nominated DiCaprio in the Best Actor category for each of his 2006 features, and DiCaprio earned his third Academy Award nomination for Blood Diamond.
In 2007, DiCaprio produced the comedy drama Gardener of Eden (2007), which, according to The Hollywood Reporter's Frank Scheck, "lack[ed] the necessary dramatic urgency or black humor to connect with audiences". Shortly after, he created, produced, co-wrote and narrated The 11th Hour, a documentary about people's relationship to nature and global warming. It won the Earthwatch Environmental Film Award through the National Geographic Channel in March 2008. DiCaprio was also 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; it ran for three seasons until 2010.
In 2008, DiCaprio starred in Body of Lies, a spy film based on the novel of the same name. It tells the story of three men battling a terrorist organization in the Middle East. DiCaprio dyed his hair brown and wore brown contacts for the role, which he considered a throwback to political films of the 1970s like The Parallax View (1974) and Three Days of the Condor (1975). The film received mixed reviews from critics, and grossed $115 million against a budget of $67.5 million. 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 the film, it went almost immediately into production. Playing a couple in a failing marriage in the 1950s, DiCaprio and Winslet spent some time together in preparation, and DiCaprio felt claustrophobic on the small set they used. He saw his character as "unheroic" and "slightly cowardly" and someone "willing to be just a product of his environment". Marshall Sella of GQ called it the "most mature and memorable performance of his lifetime"; DiCaprio earned his seventh Golden Globes nomination for the film. He ended the 2000s by producing director Jaume Collet-Serra's psychological horror thriller film Orphan (2009), starring Vera Farmiga, Peter Sarsgaard and Isabelle Fuhrman. Although the film received mixed reviews, it was a commercial success.
2010–2013: Collaboration with Martin Scorsese
DiCaprio continued to collaborate with Scorsese in the 2010 psychological thriller film Shutter Island, based on the 2003 novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane. He played Edward "Teddy" Daniels, a U.S. Marshal investigating a psychiatric facility located on an island, who comes to question his own sanity. DiCaprio and Scorsese quickly became interested in the project in 2007, and the former co-produced the film under Appian Way with Phoenix Pictures. Because of the film's plot involving disturbing scenes, DiCaprio had nightmares of mass murder during production. The film was released to mixed reviews; Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian praised Scorsese's direction and the acting but criticized its "silly twist ending", calling it "supremely exasperating". Peter Travers called it DiCaprio's "most haunting and emotionally complex performance yet", and particularly liked his cave scene with costar Patricia Clarkson. The film was a commercial success, grossing $294 million worldwide.
Also in 2010, DiCaprio starred in Christopher Nolan's ensemble science-fiction film Inception. Inspired by the experience of lucid dreaming and dream incubation, the film features Dom Cobb (DiCaprio), 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, Inception grossed over $825 million worldwide to become DiCaprio's second highest-grossing film. To star in this film, DiCaprio agreed to a pay cut from his $20 million fee, in favor of splitting first-dollar gross points, meaning he received a percentage of cinema ticket sales. The risk paid off, as DiCaprio earned $50 million from the film, becoming his highest payday yet.
After playing demanding roles in Shutter Island and Inception, DiCaprio took a break from acting, as he wanted some time for himself. In 2011, he starred alongside Armie Hammer and Naomi Watts in Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar, a biopic about J. Edgar Hoover. The film focuses on the career of the FBI director from the Palmer Raids onward, including an examination of his private life as an alleged closeted homosexual. Reviews toward the film were mixed; critics commended DiCaprio's performance but felt that, overall, the film lacked coherence. Roger Ebert praised DiCaprio's "fully-realized, subtle and persuasive performance, hinting at more than Hoover ever revealed, perhaps even to himself." Also in 2011, he produced Catherine Hardwicke's romantic horror film Red Riding Hood, which is very loosely based movie on the folk tale Little Red Riding Hood. Although it was poorly received by critics—Mary Pols of Time magazine named it one of the Top 10 Worst Movies of 2011—it had moderate box-office returns. He was also an executive producer for George Clooney's political drama The Ides of March, an adaptation of Beau Willimon's 2008 play Farragut North.
In 2012, DiCaprio starred as a plantation owner, Calvin Candie, in Quentin Tarantino's Spaghetti Western, Django Unchained. After reading the script, DiCaprio was uncomfortable with the extent of racism portrayed in the film, but his co-stars and Tarantino convinced him not to sugarcoat it. While filming, DiCaprio accidentally cut his hand on glass, but continued filming, and Tarantino elected to use the take in the final product. The film received critical acclaim; a writer for Wired magazine commended him for playing a villainous role and his "blood-chilling" performance. The film earned DiCaprio his ninth nomination at the Golden Globes. Django Unchained grossed $424 million worldwide on a production budget of $100 million.
DiCaprio's next role was as the millionaire Jay Gatsby in Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby (2013), an adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's 1925 novel of the same name, co-starring Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire. DiCaprio liked the idea of playing a man who realizes his imaginations, someone he characterizes as "a hopeless romantic, a completely obsessed wacko or a dangerous gangster, clinging to wealth". The film received mixed reviews from critics, but DiCaprio's performance was praised, and earned him an AACTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. Critic Rafer Guzman of Newsday wrote that DiCaprio was not only "tough [...] but also vulnerable, touching, funny, a faker, a human. It's a tremendous, hard-won performance." Matt Zoller Seitz of Roger Ebert's website described his performance as "the movie's greatest and simplest special effect," and "iconic—maybe his career best". The film grossed $348 million worldwide.
Three films were produced by DiCaprio under Appian Way in 2013—the ensemble crime thriller Runner Runner, which The Guardian's Xan Brooks described as "a lazy, trashy film that barely goes through the motions"; the thriller Out of the Furnace, a critical and commercial failure; and the black comedy-drama The Wolf of Wall Street. DiCaprio reunited with Scorsese for the fifth time in The Wolf of Wall Street, a film based on the life of stockbroker Jordan Belfort (played by DiCaprio), who was arrested in the late 1990s for securities fraud and money laundering. DiCaprio wanted to play Belfort ever since he had read his autobiography and won a bidding war with Warner Bros. against Brad Pitt/Paramount Pictures for the rights to Belfort's memoir in 2007. He was fond of Belfort's honest and unapologetic portrayal of his actual experiences in the book, and was inspired by the financial crisis of 2007–2008 to make the film. The Wolf of Wall Street received highly positive reviews for Scorsese's direction and DiCaprio's comedic performance. In his review for The Hollywood Reporter, Todd McCarthy wrote of his "largest and best screen performance, one in which he lets loose as he never has before, is not protective of vanity or a sense of cool and, one feels, gets completely to the bottom of his character" and lauded him for playing his role without any caution. The film earned him the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy and nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actor and Best Picture. In January 2013, DiCaprio said he would take a long break from acting to "fly around the world doing good for the environment."
2014–present: Emphasis on documentaries
DiCaprio was an executive producer on Virunga, a 2014 British documentary film about four people fighting to protect the world's last mountain gorillas from war and poaching. The film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2014. Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret was another documentary film that year for which he was an executive producer—he took part in the new cut released exclusively on Netflix that September. It explores the impact of animal agriculture on the environment, and investigates the policies of environmental organizations on this issue.
In 2015, DiCaprio produced and played fur trapper Hugh Glass in Alejandro G. Iñárritu's survival drama The Revenant. DiCaprio has described it as his most difficult film. He had to eat a raw slab of bison's liver and sleep in animal carcasses, and suffered hypothermia. He also learned to shoot a musket, build a fire, speak two Native American languages (Pawnee and Arikara) and apply ancient healing techniques. Built on a budget of $135 million, the film earned $533 million worldwide. It was also well received by critics, and DiCaprio's performance garnered universal acclaim; Mark Kermode of The Guardian wrote of DiCaprio's "brainstorming" portrayal and "his turn to triumph with a performance which relies more upon physicality than the spoken word", and Nick De Semlyen of Empire noted his "raw performance helps elevate what could have been just another man-versus-nature drama". The film earned him numerous awards, including an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, an SAG and a Critic's Choice Award 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. DiCaprio signed on to produce and star in The Crowded Room (with direction by Alejandro González Iñárritu), an adaptation of the story of Billy Milligan; it has been in development hell since before he got involved and has yet remained that way as of 2020.
For the next three years, DiCaprio narrated documentaries and served as a producer for films. In 2016, he was an executive producer for The Ivory Game, which examines the ivory trade; produced, hosted, and narrated the documentary Before the Flood about climate change; and produced the crime drama Live by Night. The last of these received largely unenthusiastic reviews and failed to recoup its $65 million production budget. He continued to produce films two years later—the psychological horror movie Delirium, and the eponymous retelling of the legend Robin Hood, an action adventure, which proved to be a critical and commercial disappointment.
After narrating the 2019 global warming documentary Ice on Fire, DiCaprio returned to acting following a break of four years in Quentin Tarantino's comedy-drama Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, which traces the relationship between Rick Dalton (DiCaprio), an aging television actor and his stuntman, Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt). To help the film's financing, DiCaprio and Pitt agreed to take a pay cut, and they each received $10 million. DiCaprio liked the experience of working with Pitt; Tarantino described the pair as "the most exciting star dynamic duo" since Robert Redford and Paul Newman. DiCaprio was fascinated with the film's homage to Hollywood and focus on the friendship between his and Pitt's characters. He drew from real-life experience of witnessing the struggles and rejections of his actor friends in the industry. Reviews for the film and DiCaprio's performance were positive; a critic for Business Insider called it the best performance of his career and Ian Sandwell of Digital Spy particularly liked DiCaprio's and Pitt's chemistry, which he said helps bring authenticity to their characters' connection. He received nominations for an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a BAFTA Award for Best Actor. The film earned $374 million against its $90-million budget. In May 2020, he made a brief appearance in the finale of the miniseries The Last Dance.
In August 2015, it was announced that Martin Scorsese will direct an adaptation of Erik Larson's The Devil in the White City starring DiCaprio. In 2017, Paramount announced that it has acquired the movie rights for an English-language adaptation of The Black Hand, which will star DiCaprio as turn of the 20th century police officer Joe Petrosino. Later that year, Paramount won a bidding war against Universal Pictures for the rights to adapt Walter Isaacson's biography of Leonardo da Vinci. The studio bought the rights under its deal with DiCaprio's Appian Way, which said that it planned to produce the film with DiCaprio as the star. As of September 2018[update], DiCaprio is set to produce and star in Roosevelt, a biopic of former U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, with Scorsese as the director. That October, he was cast in Scorsese's Killers of the Flower Moon based on the book of the same name by David Grann.
In February 2019, National Geographic ordered a television series adaption of The Right Stuff, based on the 1973 book of the same name, with DiCaprio as executive producer. The series had been in development at National Geographic since July 2017. In May 2020, the series was moved to Disney+ and scheduled for release in fall 2020.
In October 2020, it was announced that DiCaprio will star in an Adam McKay-directed comedy film for Netflix called Don't Look Up, featuring an ensemble cast including Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Jonah Hill, Timothée Chalamet, Kid Cudi, Matthew Perry, and Ariana Grande. He joined the project as COVID-19 pandemic delays pushed back its original, April 2020 production schedule. He is slated to film the project in tandem with Scorsese's next film Killers of the Flower Moon.
DiCaprio is identified as one of the most active celebrities in the climate change movement. According to him, he was eager to learn about ecology from an early age, watching documentaries on rain forest depletion and the loss of species and habitats. He has said environment is more important to him than spirituality, and that he is agnostic. He established the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation in 1998, a non-profit organization devoted to promoting environmental awareness. Although concerned with all areas of the environment, it focuses on global warming, preserving Earth's biodiversity and supporting renewable energy. It has worked on projects in over 40 countries and has produced two short web documentaries, Water Planet and Global Warning. The foundation has also funded debt-for-nature swaps. DiCaprio has received praise from environmental groups, and accolades, including the Martin Litton Environment Award in 2001 from Environment Now and the Environmental Leadership Award in 2003 from Global Green USA. He has been an active supporter of numerous environmental organizations and sat on the board of the World Wildlife Fund, Global Green USA, and International Fund for Animal Welfare.
DiCaprio has owned environment-friendly electric-hybrid vehicles and his home is powered by solar panels. His use of private jets and large yachts has attracted criticism due to their large carbon footprints. DiCaprio states that global warming is the world's "number-one environmental challenge". He chaired the national Earth Day celebration in 2000, where he interviewed Bill Clinton and they discussed plans to deal with global warming and the environment. DiCaprio presented at the 2007 American leg of Live Earth, and in 2010 earned a nomination for the VH1 Do Something Award for his environmental work.
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 had spent the last decade at the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tête, Louisiana. A benefit "11th Hour" fine art auction he organized in 2013, raised nearly $40 million for his foundation. He told attendees, "Bid as if the fate of the planet depended on us." It became the world's highest-grossing environmental charity event ever held. In 2014, he was appointed as a United Nations representative on climate change, and later that year he made an opening statement to members of the UN Climate Summit. In 2015, he announced his intention to divest from fossil fuels. He again spoke at the UN in April 2016 prior to the signing of the Paris Climate Change Agreement.
At a 2016 meeting with Pope Francis, DiCaprio gave a charity donation and spoke about environmental issues. A few days later, possibly influenced by this meeting, the Pope said he would act in a charity film. DiCaprio traveled to Indonesia in early 2016 where he criticized the government's palm oil industry's slash-and-burn forest clearing methods. In July 2016, his foundation awarded $15.6 million to help protect wildlife and the rights of Native Americans, along with combating climate change. That October, DiCaprio joined Mark Ruffalo in North Dakota in support of the Standing Rock tribe's opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. In April 2017, he protested against President Trump's inaction on climate change by attending the People's Climate March. In July, a charity auction and celebrity concert put on by DiCaprio's foundation had raised over $30 million in its opening days. DiCaprio's foundation donated $100 million in December 2018 to fight climate change. In 2019, DiCaprio's environmental NGO Earth Alliance has pledged $5 million in order to help protect the Amazon after fires destroyed large parts of the rainforest in July and August of that year.
During the 2004 presidential election, DiCaprio campaigned and donated to John Kerry's presidential bid. He gave $2,300 to Barack Obama's presidential campaign in the 2008 election, the maximum contribution an individual could give in that election cycle, and $5,000 to Obama's 2012 campaign. DiCaprio endorsed Hillary Clinton for the 2016 presidential election. In March 2020, DiCaprio attended a fundraiser for Joe Biden at the home of Paramount Pictures executive Sherry Lansing.
Prior to the 2020 election, DiCaprio narrated a Netflix documentary series about voting rights, stating, "All of us may have been created equal. But we'll never actually be equal until we all vote. So don't wait." DiCaprio used his social media presence to encourage voters to make a plan to cast their ballots and to draw attention to voter suppression and restrictive voter ID laws, citing VoteRiders as a source of information and assistance.
In 1998, DiCaprio and his mother donated $35,000 for a "Leonardo DiCaprio Computer Center" at the library in Los Feliz, the site of his childhood home. It was rebuilt after the 1994 Northridge earthquake and opened in early 1999. In 2010, he donated $1 million to relief efforts in Haiti after the earthquake. In April 2013, DiCaprio donated $61,000 to the gay rights group GLAAD. In 2016, DiCaprio took part in an annual fundraising gala event of Children of Armenia Fund, as a special guest of his close friend and gala's honorary chair Tony Shafrazi. DiCaprio contributed $65,000 to the cause. After Hurricane Harvey in 2017, DiCaprio provided $1 million to the United Way Harvey Recovery Fund through his foundation. In 2020, DiCaprio's foundation donated $3 million to Australia bushfire relief efforts.
DiCaprio's personal life is the subject of widespread media attention. He rarely grants interviews and is reluctant to speak about his private life, but he has been the subject of many articles detailing his involvement with women aged 25 or younger for the past two decades. In 1999, DiCaprio met Brazilian model Gisele Bündchen, whom he dated until 2005. He was romantically involved with Israeli model Bar Refaeli from 2005 to 2011, during which time he met with Israeli president Shimon Peres and visited Refaeli's hometown of Hod HaSharon. 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. She pled guilty and was sentenced in 2010 to two years in prison. DiCaprio dated German fashion model Toni Garrn from July 2013 until December 2014, and later in 2017.
DiCaprio owns a home in Los Angeles and an apartment in Battery Park City. In 2009, he bought an island, Blackadore Caye, off mainland Belize—on which he is set to open an environment-friendly resort—and in 2014, he purchased the original Dinah Shore residence designed by mid-century modern architect Donald Wexler in Palm Springs, California.
In June 2017, when The Wolf of Wall Street producer Red Granite Pictures was involved in the 1MDB money laundering scandal, the Bruno Manser Funds, a Swiss-based charity focused on protecting the Borneo's rainforest, called on DiCaprioto turn over the gifts he received from business associates at the production company to the US government including the Best Actor Oscar that Marlon Brando won for his role in 1954's On the Waterfront, a $3.2 million Pablo Picasso painting and a $9 million Jean-Michel Basquiat collage.
Reception and acting style
Early in his career, DiCaprio gained a reputation for his intense partying with his male friends. DiCaprio said people's perception of him was exaggerated, adding, "They want you miserable, just like them. They don't want heroes; what they want is to see you fall." In 1998, he sued Playgirl over plans to publish a fully nude picture of him. The New York Times' Caryn James has credited DiCaprio for being one of the few actors to turn his success into "a new form of old-fashioned Hollywood stardom that uses celebrity to advance social causes yet rarely lets the public beyond the glittering veil of the photo op". Carole Cadwalladr of The Guardian has said DiCaprio is "polite, charming, makes jokes, engages eye contact. And manages [...] to give almost no hint whatsoever of his actual personality."
DiCaprio is regarded as one of the finest actors of his generation. As he achieved international stardom after Titanic (1997), it intensified his image as a teen idol and romantic lead, from both of which he sought to dissociate himself. He has said he feels nervous starring in big-budget studio films due to their hype and marketing campaigns. As an actor, he likes to look at film as a "relevant art form, like a painting or sculpture. A hundred years from now, people will still be watching that movie." He is drawn to roles based on real-life people, and stories told in specific periods. According to Caryn James, DiCaprio is unafraid of working on "offbeat projects by first-rate directors", a risk that has led to "misbegotten" projects like The Beach (2000), but also to his successful collaborations with Martin Scorsese on several projects. DiCaprio has described his relationship with the director as "pretty much a dream come true for me", and admires his knowledge of film, crediting him for teaching him its history and importance. Scorsese, on his part, has said, "Leo will give me the emotion where I least expect it and could only hope for in about three or four scenes. And he can do it take after take." Jesse Hassenger of The A.V. Club believes both artists have benefited from the projects, which have helped define their careers in the 2000s.
Agnieszka Holland, who directed DiCaprio in Total Eclipse (1995), described him as "one of the most mature actors I've ever worked with", and admired his "courageous" roles choice. She said he does not apply method acting, but is "doing some trick which is pretty mysterious to everyone watching—frankly even for the director. Look at him on screen and, for the moment of the shot, he really becomes the character." Film critic Philip French, writing for The Observer, called DiCaprio a "superb actor who hasn't yet quite become an adult", and identified a theme of characters in the process of becoming a man. He wrote that DiCaprio's inclination toward films about dysfunctional families and characters seeking a father figure allude to his own troubled childhood. DiCaprio often plays characters who themselves are playing roles, which according to Caryn James "looks simple on screen but is immensely sophisticated". He tends to play antiheroes and characters who lose their mental stability as the narrative progresses. DiCaprio is particularly known for his ability to heavily commit to each role he plays; Colin Covert of The Seattle Times noted how this quality sets him apart from most of his contemporaries and "redefines film stardom".
Several media outlets, such as People, Empire, and Harper's Bazaar, have included DiCaprio in their listings of the most attractive actors. He has said he does not believe in focusing on appearance—as this is only temporary and can negatively affect one's career—and looks for career longevity instead. 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. In 2016, he was named one of the 100 most influential people in the world by Time magazine. He was included in Forbes' annual list of the world's highest-paid actors in 2008 and from 2010 to 2016 with respective earnings of $45 million, $28 million, $77 million, $37 million, $39 million, $29 million and $27 million, topping the list in 2011. The magazine praised DiCaprio's ability to star in risky, R-rated films that become box-office successes. The Hollywood Reporter's Tatiana Siegel credited DiCaprio for being a rare actor to have a successful career "without ever having made a comic book movie, family film or pre-branded franchise. Leo is the franchise." Stacey Wilson Hunt, analyzing his career in New York magazine in 2016, noted DiCaprio, unlike most of his contemporaries, had not starred in a failed film in the past ten years. Of his success, DiCaprio says, "My attitude is the same as when I started. I feel very connected to that fifteen-year-old kid who got his first movie."
Filmography and awards
According to the online portal Box Office Mojo and the review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes, DiCaprio's most critically and commercially successful films include What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), Romeo + Juliet (1996), Titanic (1997), Catch Me If You Can (2002), Gangs of New York (2002), The Aviator (2004), The Departed (2006), Blood Diamond (2006), Shutter Island (2010), Inception (2010), Django Unchained (2012), The Great Gatsby (2013), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), The Revenant (2015) and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019). His films have grossed a total of $7.2 billion worldwide.
DiCaprio has been recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the following performances:
- 66th Academy Awards (1994): Best Supporting Actor, nomination, for What's Eating Gilbert Grape
- 77th Academy Awards (2005): Best Actor, nomination, for The Aviator
- 79th Academy Awards (2007): Best Actor, nomination, for Blood Diamond
- 86th Academy Awards (2014): Best Picture and Best Actor, nominations, for The Wolf of Wall Street
- 88th Academy Awards (2016): Best Actor, win, for The Revenant
- 92nd Academy Awards (2020): Best Actor, nomination, for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
DiCaprio has won three Golden Globe Awards: Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama for The Aviator and The Revenant and Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for The Wolf of Wall Street, and a BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role for The Revenant.
- Grouvellinus leonardodicaprioi, a beetle named after DiCaprio
- Spintharus leonardodicaprioi, a spider named after DiCaprio
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