Leonardo DiCaprio

"Everywhere I go somebody is staring at me. I don't know if people are staring because they recognise me or because they think I'm a weirdo," Leonardo DiCaprio once said.

It's hardly surprising considering the amount of media exposure the star has received.

The attention his blockbuster movies have drawn has been matched only by the interest in his reported party-boy lifestyle.

Leonardo's story begins before he was even born. His mother Irmelin was admiring a DaVinci painting in Italy when she felt him kick, and hence the name for her baby boy, who was born in Los Angeles on November 11, 1974.

His father was a well-known figure in LA's hippy circles and closely involved in the underground comic scene which proliferated in California during the Sixties.

Writer Charles Bukowski, beat poet Alan Ginsberg and the legendary LSD guru Timothy Leary were all family friends. It was against this backdrop that Leo first ventured into acting, with the full support of both parents.

The academic world, he admits, was not really his forte. "I never truly got the knack of it," he says. "I could never focus on things I didn"t want to learn." It was of little import, however, as his screen career got off to an early start. He was just six when he made his debut in TV commercials, and by the age of 14 he was appearing in Lassie.

After coming to the world's attention in the 1992 film This Boy's Life opposite Robert De Niro, Leo won critical acclaim the following year with his portrayal of Johnny Depp's disabled younger brother in the film What's Eating Gilbert Grape. It was a performance that was to earn him an Academy Award nomination at the age of just 19.

Despite his youth, the budding actor had already made an impression in Hollywood. "He'll do intelligent material with depth, feel and range, but he'll also have a lot of sex appeal," said writer Erin Culley.

Meanwhile, Meryl Streep dubbed him "a fabulous little genius", following his performance in Baz Luhrman's modern reworking of Shakespeare's Romeo And Juliet. "Leonardo's the real thing," she said.

But it was the 1997 blockbuster Titanic for which Leo picked up a cool $12 million that catapulted him into megastardom.

As his professional talent was being lauded, however, his personal reputation began to suffer. While the tale of doomed love on the high seas scooped 11 Academy Awards, Leo chose not to attend the ceremony. "He didn't go, and he looked a spoiled punk," said director James Cameron. "The message I got on my machine the day before said: 'It just ain't me bro'."

During filming the two had had a series of run-ins, and in one incident Leo reportedly tipped a bucket of ice-water over the director. "I'm just starting to scratch the surface of what makes me happy, and it has taken me a while to admit that acting like a child and a jerk is fun," said the actor at this time.

Stories of all-night partying began to appear in the gossip columns and he reportedly picked up the moniker "DiBratio" from his peers in the industry.

A penchant for boyish pranks didn't affect his romantic success, however; former flames include top models Kristen Zang and Vanessa Hayden, and his on-off five year relationship with Brazilian cover girl Gisele Bundchen lasted longer than many would have wagered.

Since their break up in November 2005, Leo has been linked to a series of women, including Israeli model Bar Refaeli, but is reluctant to talk about his private life.

Despite his reputation, he has remained a major box-office draw; reportedly receiving a $20-million paycheque for his role in The Beach. Then when pictures of the star looking pale and less buff began to circulate, Leonardo adopted a strict workout regime and began to moderate his lifestyle.

These days the actor says he has put the role of Tinseltown bad-boy behind him, and it is a more mature, more focused Leo who appears in interviews. The much-hyped Gangs Of New York represented the realisation of a life-long dream to work with Martin Scorsese and also offered him a more serious and challenging role.

Leo and Martin's partnership proved to be a successful one, with the pair reuniting for The Aviator in 2004 and the Oscar-nominated The Departed in 2006.

This doesn't mean, however, that lighter fare is completely off the agenda he also appeared in Steven Spielberg's film Catch Me If You Can, the true story of con-man Frank Abagnale Jr, the youngest ever entry on the FBI's Most Wanted list.

Having overhauled his chaotic lifestyle and regained his classical good looks, Leonardo got back in fine form. He found a new role as an environmental campaigner, highlighting ecological problems such as global warming and talking about the problems facing Africa after filming Blood Diamond on that continent.

Leo's Oscar-nominated performance in the film revealed that the actor transformed into a thoughtful and highly-respected leading man, who came a long way from his hedonistic younger days.

In 2013, Leo stepped back on the scene with the The Great Gatsby. In January 2014 he won a Golden Globe for Best Actor with the film The Wolf of Wall Street (2013). Another Scorsese collaboration, the satire on the excesses of New York's financial centre also earned him an Academy Awards nomination.
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