Leonardo Wilhelm DiCaprio (born November 11, 1974) is an American actor and film producer who is one of the biggest movie stars of the last thirty years, and among the most famous and respected actors of his generation.
DiCaprio's career began with his role in the television sitcom Growing Pains, after which he started appearing in independent movies in The '90s. His breakthrough film performance came in This Boy's Life (co-starring his hero Robert De Niro, who apparently informed Martin Scorsese about the young man's precocious talents). He then quickly followed with What's Eating Gilbert Grape, wherein he played the mentally disabled brother of Johnny Depp (who played the title role) in a performance that brought him nominations for the Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
While he then gained considerable prominence for his role in Romeo + Juliet in 1996, DiCaprio's role as Jack Dawson in James Cameron's Titanic (1997) made him into one of the biggest movie stars in the world. In the immediate aftermath, he struggled for a few years with some ready to dismiss him as a flash in the pan, but this changed in 2002, when he appeared in two films by major directors — Gangs of New York (Martin Scorsese) and Catch Me If You Can (Steven Spielberg). This marked the start of the current and most successful phase of his career, where he acts in intense roles collaborating with auteur directors, many of them built on shedding his romantic dreamboat image that he had accidentally sustained.
DiCaprio has collaborated most often with Martin Scorsese (interestingly, both are Italian-Americans). This partnership has earned comparisons to the earlier working relationship between Scorsese and Robert De Niro for the simple fact that they are the only two actors Scorsese has worked with repeatedly as lead roles in multiple films. Their collaboration has been mutually beneficial, with DiCaprio's critical reputation changing from a Pretty Boy to a talented actor who had a greater emotional range than many expected and who could also project an uncommon intensity. Scorsese in turn managed to score a string of hits (as every one of their films has been profitable), with The Departed winning him the Oscar for Best Director while The Wolf of Wall Street became the biggest box office grosser of his career. He's also attached to play Theodore Roosevelt in a long-gestating biopic from Scorsese that currently doesn't have a release date but is expected to be his next project after the upcoming Killers of the Flower Moon.
To try and summarize his filmography, DiCaprio has appeared in a lot of Period Pieces, doesn't seem to be interested in acting in big franchise films, and tends to die in many of his movies. He's also an environmentalist, and produced and narrated a documentary, The 11th Hour about environmental issues.
At the 88th Academy Awards on February 28, 2016, DiCaprio finally received an Academy Award, winning for Best Actor for his performance in The Revenant after previously being nominated four times (three times for Best Actor, one time for Best Supporting Actor). Considering his recurring losses and exclusions at the ceremony had begun to precede him among the film community and the Internet by way of memes (one popular one dubbed him "Leonardo No-Oscar-o"), his victory was met with much rejoicing. Amusingly, much the same thing happened to his Titanic co-star Kate Winslet, who was nominated for five different Academy Awards (three for Best Actress, two for Best Supporting Actress) before she finally won one for The Reader in 2009, leading some fans to jokingly suggest that Titanic was cursed.
Movies or TV series he starred in:
- Santa Barbara (1990) as Young Mason Capwell (one scene)
- Critters 3 (1991) as Josh
- Growing Pains (1992) as Luke Brower
- This Boy's Life (1993) as Tobias Wolff
- What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993) as Arnie Grape
- The Quick and the Dead (1994) as Kid
- The Basketball Diaries (1995) as Jim Carroll
- Total Eclipse (1995) as Arthur Rimbaud
- Don's Plum (1995 but released in 2001) as Derek
- William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet (1996) as Romeo
- Marvin's Room (1996) as Hank
- Titanic (1997) as Jack Dawson
- The Man in the Iron Mask (1998) as twins King Louis XIV and Phillipe
- Celebrity (1998) as Brandon Darrow
- The Beach (2000) as Richard
- Gangs of New York * (2002) as Amsterdam Vallon
- Catch Me If You Can (2002) as Frank Abagnale Jr
- The Aviator * (2004) as Howard Hughes
- The Departed * (2006) as Billy Costigan
- Blood Diamond (2006) as Danny Archer
- Body of Lies (2008) as Roger Ferris
- Revolutionary Road (2008) as Frank Wheeler
- Shutter Island * (2010) as Teddy Daniels
- Inception (2010) as Dom Cobb
- J. Edgar (2011) as J. Edgar Hoover
- Django Unchained (2012) as Calvin J. Candie
- The Great Gatsby (2013) as Jay Gatsby
- The Wolf of Wall Street * (2013) as Jordan Belfort
- The Revenant (2015) as Hugh Glass — His first Oscar for Best Actor
- Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) as Rick Dalton
- Don't Look Up (2021) as Dr. Randall Mindy
- Killers of the Flower Moon * (2023)
Note: * indicates Dicaprio's collaborations with Martin Scorsese.
Tropes associated with his works:
- Age Lift: In Catch Me If You Can he played 16-year-old Frank Abagnale. Two years later he was playing late 30s-to early 40s Howard Hughes. He then later played the much older J. Edgar Hoover. A lot of people accused the casting of being ambitious, to say the least, especially in the case of Hoover.
- Anti-Hero: Tends to play this type of character in most of his movies:
- Basketball Diaries: A 14-year-old Catholic school student who is also a heroin-junkie and prostitute.
- Total Eclipse: Plays poet Arthur Rimbaud, who also had an affair with an older man.
- Marvin's Room: Sets his house on fire in the first 10 minutes of the show. Has bipolar disorder and stays in a psychiatric treatment center.
- Don's Plum and Celebrity: Plays spoiled, bored, rich jerkasses.
- The Aviator, Revolutionary Road, Shutter Island, Inception, The Great Gatsby (2013): Plays characters with delusional behaviors and a warped sense of reality.
- The Departed: Plays a character who has to do some really shady things while undercover, such as participating in murder.
- Blood Diamond: Plays a racist South African merc who kills and cheats his way across Africa for his personal gain.
- Big Bad: He's played the Big Bad of The Man in the Iron Mask and Django Unchained, and he's also the Villain Protagonist of The Wolf of Wall Street.
- Biopic: He has played Arthur Rimbaud, Howard Hughes, Frank Abagnale Jr., J. Edgar Hoover, Jordan Belfort, Hugh Glass, to name a few.
- Black Comedy: The characters played by him that have at least some comedy to them (Calvin Candie, Jordan Belfort, Dr. Randall Mindy) tend to do horrible things.
- Chronically Killed Actor: When taken to its logical extreme, if he appears in a Baz Luhrmann film his character is doomed (since he plays characters that die in the source material of the two Luhrmann films he's appeared in).
- Destructive Romance: Most of his romantic films tend to have him in such a relationship. Many of them feature him in bad marriages or relationships (The Great Gatsby, The Wolf of Wall Street, Inception, Shutter Island, Revolutionary Road). The only healthy screen romance and good relationships, was Jack and Rose in Titanic and even that one got him killed, and of course Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet, which well is self-explanatory.
- Dyeing for Your Art: Inspired by his idol Robert De Niro, Leo is a prominent method actor of the 21st century. It went to extremes in his Oscar-winning role in The Revenant.
- Irony as She Is Cast: His role in Revolutionary Road involved yelling and screaming at Kate Winslet, one of his dearest and closest friends. Invoked Trope as both have stated that it made it so much easier having the relationship between them, as their trust for each other was so strong.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed:
- Gets a No Celebrities Were Harmed character in the Resident Evil game series in the form of Steve Burnside; although the character's inclusion was most certainly pushed along by the advent of Titanic being popular, his personality and actions are modeled on DiCaprio's earlier roles.
- Gilbert (Gil) from Hana-Kimi is modeled after Leonardo DiCaprio.
- Wrestler Brian Kendrick went by the name Leonardo Spanky earlier in his career in Japan, due to his resemblance.
- Older Than They Look: He looked 14 in What's Eating Gilbert Grape (real age 18), 16 in Total Eclipse and Basketball Diaries (real age 20), 16 in Romeo + Juliet (real age 21), 16 in Catch Me If You Can (real age 28). Based on the set pictures from J. Edgar, the 36-year-old Leo looks right at home playing a 21-year-old Hoover. As one person put it, he looks about a decade younger clean-shaven.
- Playing Against Type: Done completely intentionally with Revolutionary Road. Leo and Kate knew that their next film collaboration couldn't bear any resemblance to Titanic so they did the complete opposite; star-crossed lovers contrasted against a couple in an Awful Wedded Life.
- Pretty Boy: Played young and handsome characters early in his career and he's still the modern idea of what people think of when they hear of this. The hunt for "the next Leonardo DiCaprio" hasn't really died.
- Sexy Soaked Shirt: Remarkably common to whatever character he is playing. He got drenched in a tub in What's Eating Gilbert Grape, falls into a pool in William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet, swims in the ocean in The Beach and Titanic, along other examples.
- Smoking Is Cool: In almost all of his movies his characters smoke, starting from the Basketball Diaries (age 20). In particular, watch out for the scene in Romeo + Juliet in which he's sitting by the beach, calmly puffing away while he writes in his diary and droning Radiohead music plays in the background.
- Those Two Actors: Played lovers with Kate Winslet in Titanic and Revolutionary Road.
- What Could Have Been: He was once set to play in Scorsese's Silence, but ultimately couldn't. The two will still collaborate again on Killers of the Flower Moon.
... We have to go deeper.