Not every film star holds the power of diffusing a collective sigh of relief, especially after winning an Oscar, except Leonardo DiCaprio. The former Oscar-jinxed Hollywood heartthrob created a buzz, after being nominated six times and losing to his contenders at the Academy Awards.
His breakout role in “Titanic,” with auteur James Cameron in the helm, rose DiCaprio to the zenith of popularity , while the film earned over $1 billion dollars along with winning billion of hearts worldwide.
With his sterling performance in “Romeo + Juliet” back in 1997, DiCaprio made Shakespeare’s iconic writing even more appealing and accessible for all, especially to teenagers.
From the runaway conman in “Catch Me If You Can,” to the squandering Jordan Belfort of “The Wolf of Wall Streets,” Leo never ceases to amaze his fans by delving into the characters he portrays in the most natural way.
Starting off as a supporting actor back in 1988, DiCaprio is now one of the biggest film stars in the world, with a current salary of $20 million per project. With his billion dollars worth charity to save the environment, he is surely one of the best Samaritans to Mother Earth too.
As the versatile actor and philanthropist celebrates his 43rd birthday on Saturday, November 11, Showtime offers a glimpse at some of the must-know facts about Leonardo DiCaprio.
The story behind the name
Yes, as you might have thought, the actor’s name was inspired by the legendary Italian renaissance artist, Leonardo da Vinci. DiCaprio's mother thought of the name while she was pregnant with him. The later-to-be-superstar kicked for the first time in his mother's womb, when she was looking at a da Vinci painting in Italy.
However, this name soon emerged as a problem for DiCaprio's career. During an interview with the Shortlist, “The Great Gatsby” actor told that many agents suggested him to change his name, tagging it as “too ethnic” to get many works.
“So that thwarted me from being an actor for a number of years. I tried again two years later when I was 13 and got an agent to accept me with my name,” he said. DiCaprio added that at age 11, an agent even wanted to change his name to Lenny Williams.
The could-have-been Anakin Skywalker, Spiderman and Robin
For being the picky film star he is, DiCaprio has turned down a bunch of lucrative projects from famed directors throughout his career. From Joel Schumacher to “Star Wars” director George Lucas, the actor has rejected a number of A-list filmmakers.
According to Variety, the actor was offered a role in 1993’s “Hocus Pocus,” in exchange for which DiCaprio could have earned, in his own words, “more money than I ever dreamed of.” But Leo eventually turned down the offer.
“You live in an environment where you’re influenced by people telling you to make a lot of money and strike while the iron’s hot. But if there’s one thing I’m very proud of, it’s being a young man who was sticking to my guns.”
The “Revenant” actor, after meeting with director Joel Schumacher for the role of Robin in “Batman Forever,” DiCaprio rejected, as he simply “didn’t want to play the role.”
In continuation to his refusals, the actor also rejected to play the role of Anakin Skywalker in the “Star Wars” prequels. The reason? He “just didn’t feel ready to take that dive,” he later told Shortlist.
Just because he did not feel “ready to put on that suit yet,” DiCaprio also refused to take up the role of Sam Raimi’s “Spiderman,” which later went to his best mate, Tobey Maguire.
The ‘Strutting Leo’
A picture of DiCaprio walking with a happy face and tilted head, while his elbow was uptight from the set of the of the 2010 science fiction movie “Inception,” had gone viral. The photo of the actor strutting in the streets soon became a symbol of happy walking.
Leo's love for walking became one of the most recognisable internet memes, called “Strutting Leo.”
The times he dodged death
Like in the films, death has followed DiCaprio around for a while now. The actor has encountered death on several occasions over the years.
The first encounter was when a shark jumped into the actor's cage while he was diving in South Africa, he told the Wire during an interview.
“The great white took about five or six snaps an arm’s length away from my head. The guys there said that has never happened in the 30 years they’d been doing it.”
The second time he dodged death was on a Delta Airlines flight to Russia. The actor was travelling in business class when he witnessed an engine “blowing up.” Recalling it as a surreal experience, DiCaprio said that the crew started the back-up engines, and emergency landed at JFK airport in New York.
The latest encounter of DiCaprio and death took place in the sky, during a skydiving session, where both his first and second parachutes wouldn’t open because it was knotted up.
“I didn’t even think about the extra chute, so I thought we were just plummeting to our death. He [professional skydiver] pulled the second, and that was knotted up too. He just kept shaking it and shaking it ... And he finally unravels it in midair,” DiCaprio told in an interview.
Things he does for the environment
Following his success with “Titanic,” Leonardo DiCaprio established his foundation in 1998, with the mission to protect the world’s last wild places. As a foundation, the actor implements solutions that could help restore balance to threatened ecosystems, ensuring long-term health and well-being of all Earth’s inhabitants.
Since then, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation (LDF) has worked on some of the most pressing environmental issues of current times.
In acknowledgement of the foundation's impactful work over the last two decades, DiCaprio was designated as the United Nations Messenger of Peace for Climate Change, and received the 2014 Clinton Global Citizen Award.
The star has also backed the wildlife protection initiative, set up by Bangladesh, to save endangered Royal Bengal Tigers from poachers in 2011. To date, DiCaprio's charity has raised more than $80 million to save the world's wildlands.