The Enigmatic Leonardo

The Enigmatic Leonardo
27 Dec

By Madiha Yameen

There’s always this one person who’s admired by everyone. Who has those ‘ever-green’ looks and whose works are remembered always. Leonardo DiCaprio is one of those people – no, actually he’s on the top of the list. Named after the painter Leonardo DaVinci, this man has no shortage of talent. Born on November 11, 1974, which makes him 40 currently, is an American actor and film producer. Son of German mother (Irmelin) and half-Italian and half-German American father (George), his parents divorced when he was one. He lived mostly with his mother and that’s why he speaks German fluently.

Leo followed his older stepbrother Adam Farrar into television commercials, landing an ad for Matchbox cars at 14. In 1990, he got his break on television in a role in short-lived series based on the movie Parenthood. His debut film role was in the comedic sci-fi horror film Critters 3. Soon after, he got a recurring role on the ABC sitcom Growing Pains. DiCaprio made his big screen breakthrough in 1992, when he was handpicked by Robert De Niro out of 400 young actors to play the lead role in This Boy’s Life. The role which made Leo get called a God’s gift to Hollywood was as the mentally handicapped brother of Johnny Depp’s character in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, a comic-tragic odyssey of a dysfunctional family. Leo was awarded the National Board of Review Award and nominated for both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for his portrayal. Leo was casted on Louis L’Amour’s novel based western film The Quick and the Dead, after co-star, Sharon Stone’s insist who decided to pay for Leo’s salary herself.

DiCaprio next starred in Total Eclipse. He replaced River Phoenix, who had died during pre-production on the project. DiCaprio’s last film of the year 1995 was The Basketball Diaries, a biopic about Jim Carroll. Mark Wahlberg, fresh out of his rapping years as Marky-Mark, co-starred in the flick. In 1996, DiCaprio appeared opposite Claire Danes in film Romeo + Juliet which achieved a worldwide box office take of $147 million. He starred in Marvin’s Room, reuniting with Robert De Niro. In 1997, DiCaprio starred in James Cameron’s Titanic as twenty-year-old Jack Dawson. 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, grossing more than $1.843 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”. He was nominated 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.”

In 1998, Leo starred in the dual roles of the villainous King Louis XIV and his secret, sympathetic twin brother Philippe in The Man in the Iron Mask, an Alexandre Dumas novel. He was awarded a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Screen Couple.

Leonardo has won fans and critical plaudits for his works. The sum-up of his works since 2002 till now can be stated as Catch Me If You Can, a young Howard Hughes in The Aviator, as a South African in Blood Diamond and an undercover policeman in The Departed, sometimes Oscar nominated, more times not and sometimes robbed of a nod as in the case of J. Edgar, Django Unchained, The Great Gatsby and The Wolf of Wall Street. Inception and Shutter Island need no introduction. This man has done more versatile roles than your average Meryl Streep (does this statement do justice with him, fans?).


Fun Facts

– In 1988, River Phoenix was supposed to get Jim Carroll’s part in The Basket Ball Diaries. But, you heard, Leo got the role. In 1995, Phoenix was going to play Arthur Rimbaud in Total Eclipse. But he died and the role went to Leo.

– Leo has been nominated for Oscar five times (1994 – What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, 2005, The Aviator, 2007 – Blood Diamond, 2014 – The Wolf of Wall Street).

– In Django Unchained (2012) Leonardo, while the cameras were rolling, cut his hand intentionally. The wide gash needed stitches but it didn’t keep him from being in his character. Using his bloodied hand as a new prop, he smeared the blood on co-star Kerry Washington – who certainly was horrified. This was the scene the director kept in the original film.

– Before What’s Eating Gilbert Grape shooting started, Leonardo visited some mental hospitals to observe mentally challenged children’s facial expressions for his role as Gilbert Grape’s disabled brother.

– Leo’s The Great Gatsby, the entire movie is computerized. Well, almost.

– At the young age of 10, Leonardo was advised to change his name to “something more friendly and American” such as Lenny Williams. He obviously refused which was a good thing because he is famous worldwide.

– He was meant to star in American Psycho and would have earned $20 million for the role. However, he had to drop out due to schedule conflicting issues and the role went to Christian Bale.

– DiCaprio turned down the role of Camerlengo Patrick McKenna in Angels and Demons. He declined despite being offered the role personally by Tom Hanks.

– He was considered for the role of Peter Parker/Spider-Man inSpider-Man, the role went finally to childhood friend Tobey Maguire.

– DiCaprio really wanted to play Jay Gatsby in The Great Gatsby because he was drawn to “the idea of a man who came from absolutely nothing, who created himself solely from his own imagination. Gatsby’s one of those iconic characters because he can be interpreted in so many ways: a hopeless romantic, a completely obsessed wacko or a dangerous gangster, clinging to wealth.”

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