Leonardo Wilhelm DiCaprio was born to George and Irmalin DiCaprio on November 11, 1974 in Los Angeles, California. His parents chose the name Leonardo while on their honeymoon in Italy when Irmalin felt a swift kick from her unborn son while admiring a painting by Leonardo DaVinci. Although his parents had been together since the 1960s, their marriage only lasted a few short years although they remained friends afterwards.
Leonardo attended John Marshall High School in Los Feliz, California, but his formal education there was cut short after he began acting full time. He eventually received a high school diploma through home school. With his baby face and wholesome good looks, DiCaprio's mother began to take him to auditions for television commercials at the age of 13. He signed with an agent at the age of 14, and worked in various commercials and educational films, including "Mickey's Safety Club" and "How to Deal With a Parent Who Takes Drugs".
The tall, slender, handsome young actor proved engaging in TV family sitcoms ("Parenthood", "Growing Pains") and even in the low budget horror sequel ("Critters 3" 1991). He won out over 400 others to win the role of Tobias Wolff in "This Boy's Life" (1993) after a four-month casting search. The film depicted a boy's dramatic coming-of-age in the 1950s. Young DiCaprio walked away with stronger reviews than his costars Robert De Niro and Ellen Barkin. As a result, DiCaprio's career was off and running.
DiCaprio was next cast alongside Johnny Depp in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?" (1993). While his good looks nearly lost him the part of the autistic Arnie, Gilbert's mentally challenged but cheerful younger brother, the 19-year-old actor again collected the best reviews not to mention a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination for his performance.
DiCaprio's next film roles, The Quick and the Dead, The Basketball Diaries and Total Eclipse, were box-office disappointments. So he decided to take the more commercial, mainstream route in an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, costarring Claire Danes. As the leading man, DiCaprio graced the covers of numerous teen magazines and became the darling of the teen set. He followed this by starring in the 1996 tearjerker Marvin's Room.
DiCaprio then gained immense attention, as the wayward bohemian artist, Jack Dawson, in the mega-hit Titanic (1997). The special effects-laden Titanic, written and directed by James Cameron, cost close to $200 million to produce and featured Kate Winslet in the co-starring (and Oscar-nominated) role as DiCaprio's love interest, Rose DeWitt. It was the highest grossing film of all time. Dicaprio is reported to have been peeved at not receiving a nomination himself.
In 2000 he teamed up with director Danny Boyle for "The Beach" where DiCaprio gave a good performance in a flawed storyline. On a more positive note, the actor was cast in director Martin Scorsese's 19th Century drama "Gangs of New York," playing Irish-American immigrant Amsterdam Vallon. Production issues delayed the film by nearly a year to the 2002 holiday season. DiCaprio found himself competing with himself in director Steven Spielberg's "Catch Me If You Can," in which he played real-life con artist Frank W. Abagnale Jr. Perfectly cast, DiCaprio delivered a very charming and mature performance, proving himself again as talented actor.
DiCaprio reunited with Scorsese on "The Aviator" (2004), a project the actor initially planned to do with director Michael Mann, which focused on the prime years of the famed billionaire Howard Hughes where he delivered one of his strongest performances yet. For his efforts, DiCaprio was rewarded with a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama. His bravura performance also earned him another Academy Award nomination. After the success of "The Aviator," DiCaprio immediately reunited with Scorsese alongside an all-star cast that included Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, Martin Sheen, Alec Baldwin and Jack Nicholson for "The Departed" (2006), in which he played a Boston cop assigned to work undercover inside a notorious Irish-American gang. Also that year, DiCaprio starred in “Blood Diamond” (2006), a sweeping tale directed by Edward Zwick about a South African diamond smuggler (DiCaprio) and a poor fisherman (Djimon Hounsou) who join forces in order to find a rare pink diamond that can transform both their lives. DiCaprio earned Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture for both “The Departed” and “Blood Diamond,” while he received a Best Actor nod at the Academy Awards for only the latter.
A committed environmental activist, DiCaprio narrated “11th Hour” (2006), a documentary that examined global warming and possible solutions to restore the planet’s decaying ecosystems. He next played a CIA operative who helps infiltrate a major terrorist network in Jordan in “Body of Lies” (2008). He then enjoyed a long-awaited reunion with “Titanic” co-star Kate Winslet for “Revolutionary Road” (2008), a period story that depicted DiCaprio and Winslet as a young married couple trapped in an endless cycle of jealousy and recriminations. Meanwhile, DiCaprio worked once again with Scorsese; this time on “Ashecliffe” (2009), a mystery thriller about two U.S. Marshals in the 1950s who are sent to a federal institution for the criminally insane in Boston’s Outer Harbor in order to capture a violent female escapee. Toward the end of 2008, DiCaprio earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama for his performance in “Revolutionary Road.”