Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio in J. Edgar

Leonardo DiCaprio in “J. Edgar”

It is well known how much Leonardo DiCaprio made a concerted effort not to fall prey, or become simply known, as a teen idol. In the wake of the “Titanic” aftershock, DiCaprio threw the media – and his teeny bopper fans – for a loop. He disappeared from the award accolades heaped on “Titanic” (as it rose to become the highest grossing film of all time), he turned down movie roles, and he struggled to make his claim for what he really is: an actor, not a celebrity – and certainly not a momentary 90s heartthrob. Simply, he did not want to become Freddie Prinze Jr. Leave it to Martin Scorsese to make sure of that.

Leo got his start on television as a teenager, particularly in the final days of the sitcom “Growing Pains.” When he transitioned to the big screen, he was alongside the heavy hitters in no time – no less than De Niro in “This Boy’s Life” in 1993. He earned his first of three Oscar nods the same year with “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.” The next couple of years saw Leo DiCaprio build an impressive resume for a young actor – from “The Basketball Diaries” to Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet,” and as the son of Meryl Streep in “Marvin’s Room.” But “Titanic” in 1997 not only rocked Leo’s boat, it rocked the world. Its success threatened to capsize DiCaprio’s own respectable acting reputation, and his careful choices of ensuing movies cemented his desire to pursue quality acting if alienating his teen fan base. He’s a hotheaded movie star in Woody Allen’s “Celebrity,” a role worlds apart from Jack in “Titanic.”

The subsequent decade following “Titanic” has established Leonardo DiCaprio as one of his generation’s greatest actors; and his frequent collaboration with master director Martin Scorsese proves it. He’s been Scorsese’s man for three straight pictures – “Gangs of New York,” “The Aviator” (hailed as one of the best films of the decade and earning Leo his second Oscar nomination), and “The Departed,” which finally won Scorsese his own long-sought Academy Award. Leo is now producing his own work while using his celebrity status to promote environmental awareness. If his output remains as consistent as it has in the 1990s and 2000s, he will have an immense body of work – and an amazing list of collaborators to go with it. From Scorsese to Spielberg, De Niro to Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio brings out the best the movie industry has to offer – while continuously challenging himself.

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Leo on the Screen

Leonardo DiCaprio grows up before our eyes. He’s Luke Bower for 22 episodes on “Growing Pains” from 1991-1992. You can also glimpse him as Guy in “Poison Ivy,” the cult Drew Barrymore flick. From there, he’s opposite heavyweights the rest of the way. He’s De Niro’s stepson in “This Boy’s Life,” brother to Johnny Depp in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape,” and Gene Hackman’s son in “The Quick and The Dead.” He’s the drug addict lead in “The Basketball Diaries” and as French poet Arthur Rimbaud in the little known “Total Eclipse.” “Romeo + Juliet” paved the way for “Titanic” in 1997. He’s Louis XIV in Randall Wallace’s “The Man in the Iron Mask,” has a memorable 10 minutes in Woody Allen’s underrated “Celebrity,” and there’s “The Beach” in 2000. What follows is a list of films sure to be classics: he’s chased by Tom Hanks in “Catch Me If You Can,” son of Liam Neeson and enemy of Daniel Day Lewis in Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York,” Howard Hughes in the sprawling “The Aviator,” and the rat in “The Departed,” where he has some memorable exchanges with Jack Nicholson. “Blood Diamond” earned Leo his third Oscar nomination – all by the age of 32.

Wolf of Wall Street” (2013)
Leo starred opposite Margot Robbie and Jonah Hill in this monster hit directed by Martin Scorsese. Jason Zingale notes that Leo is “brilliant” in this film.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Margot Robbie in Wolf od Wall Street

Photo credit: Mary Cybulski

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood” (2019)
Leo starred opposite Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie (again) in this film directed by Quentin Tarantino. Rob Dean writes that “DiCaprio is fantastic as a pitiable egotist – a laughably dramatic yet petty minor talent who’s staring down the end of his run.”

Don’t Look Up” (2021)
You know Netflix is getting more powerful when they can release a film on the platform with Leo and Jennifer Lawrence leading an all-star cast. Rob Dean writes that “DiCaprio is fantastic as a pitiable egotist – a laughably dramatic yet petty minor talent who’s staring down the end of his run.”

Leo Says

On his teen idol status:
“I hate this whole hunk thing!”

On love:
“To believe in love, to be ready to give up anything for it, to be willing to risk your life for it, is the ultimate tragedy.”

On education:
“School, I never truly got the knack of. I could never focus on things I didn’t want to learn.”

On his recognition:
“Everywhere I go, somebody is staring at me, I don’t know if people are staring because they recognize me or because they think I’m a weirdo.”