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LEONARDO DiCAPRIO Hollywood's Hottest Rising Star by Kaya Morgan

As star of the mega-blockbuster film, Titanic, the highest grossing film in history, Leonardo DiCaprio has accomplished what has taken other actors decades to achieve — worldwide fame, incredible success and peer acceptance as a great actor.

DiCaprio is one of Hollywood's true natives, born and raised in the Los Angeles area. Destined to be a wild and spirited child, he was named after Leonardo DaVinci while kicking in his mother's womb as she stood viewing one of the Master's works. Although his parents separated while he was just an infant, they both still play an important role in his life. Father, George, is a former comic book creator and distributor who now previews Leonardo's scripts, while mother, Irmalin still oversees her son's finances.

Leo's acting debut was on the television show, Romper Room, at age five. Although both parents supported his fervent desire to achieve movie success, he had his share of casting nightmares working on over 30 obscure Television commercials and educational films before being selected for guest appearances on popular TV shows such as The New Lassie, The Outsiders, Roseanne, Parenthood, and roles on the soap opera, Santa Barbara.

Further discouraged by the commercialism of the industry, while searching for an agent, DiCaprio was told that his future success depended on a different haircut and a name change to the less ethnic-sounding — Lenny Williams. Fortunately, he resisted and found an agent who aligned himself with DiCaprio's own image.

It was not until age 11 that he received his first big screen role in Critters III. Then at 16, he landed a successful, recurring role as a homeless boy on the successful teen sitcom, Growing Pains, where even as a small part, he easily out-shined the rest of the cast.

The leading role as Tobias Wolff, opposite Robert De Niro and Ellen Barken, in This Boy's Life was, undoubtedly, his first big break. Although his brilliant performance in this "coming of age" movie where he played the delinquent son of an alcoholic stepfather didn't hit a home run at the box office, he gained instant recognition as a talented rising young star.

Finally having the luxury of picking his roles carefully, DiCaprio turned down a number of mainstream roles including that of Robin in Batman Forever — one that most actors would have gleefully accepted. But, DiCaprio kept true to his vision, searching for more challenging, though controversial roles. He excelled as the drug-troubled Jim Carrol in Basketball Diaries, as the homosexual French poet, Arthur Timbaud, in Total Eclipse, and received a "Best Supporting Actor Award," as the mentally handicapped teenager in What's Eating Gilbert Grape.

Playing opposite Claire Danes in the electrifying, modern-day adaptation of Romeo & Juliet, DiCaprio firmly established his on-screen persona as the boy on the wrong side o f the tracks. He followed with a high-profile feature of another teenage delinquent starring alongside Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton in the critically acclaimed, Marvin's Room. But, no one could have predicted the colossal success that was yet to come his way.

To date, DiCaprio's most well-known role is still as the wayward bohemian artist, Jack Dawson, in the historic film, Titanic. One of the most expensive to produce in movie industry, it was also the film that garnered the highest draw ever with over $400 million dollars earned at the box office. With 12 nominations, Titanic received 11 Academy Awards — more than any other film in history. Although DiCaprio himself was not nominated, he soon became the most sought-after actor in Hollywood with reportedly an asking price of $20 million dollars per film.

Next deciding to work with one of the great names in film, DiCaprio stepped down from his image of the handsome lead to appear in Woody Allen's Celebrity, followed by a dual role in The Man in the Iron Mask, and The Beach. Recent releases of Martin Scorsese's, Gangs of New York with Cameron Diaz and Daniel Day-Lewis, and Catch Me If You Can opposite Tom Hanks has brought him back to the center of a whirlwind of public appeal that now reaches a much larger demographic audience.

Following his tremendous success, DiCaprio has remained in the limelight, being romantically linked to some of the most beautiful supermodels of all time — Bridget Hall, Amber Valetta and Gisele Bundchen. But, he is also passionately committed to social awareness causes, having starred in two educational films, and created the Leonardo DiCaprio Charitable Foundation, a high-profile environmental group that awards grants to non-profit organizations throughout the world.

DiCaprio has recently formed his own production company in order to develop projects where he can move into the genre of producer as well as star, drawing on his unique ability to ride the edge between the boyish, yet manly image, with ease and natural spontaneity. We can expect to enjoy much more of this talented actor as a young Howard Hughes in the upcoming Martin Scorsese film, The Aviator, and as Alexander the Great in Oliver Stone's film of the same title.

You can find more information on Leonardo DiCaprio at

More stories by journalist, Kaya Morgan, can be found by clicking the link. Contact us for reprint rights as most articles are available.

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