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Leonardo DiCaprio: From Child Actor To Hollywood Superstar

VO: Rebecca Brayton
He began his career as a child actor on commercials and television. After gaining recognition on the television show Growing Pains, he gave several stellar breakthrough performances. These roles, such as that of Arnie Grape in What's Eating Gilbert Grape and Jack Dawson in Titanic, made him a Hollywood icon. In recent years he has continued to dazzle audiences and gain critical praise for films such as The Departed and Shutter Island, just some of his many collaborations with director Martin Scorsese. Join us at as we explore Leo DiCaprio's humble beginnings and his journey to become one of Hollywood's biggest names.

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Leo DiCaprio Profile

He went from unknown child actor, to heartthrob and box-office phenomenon of the late 90s. Welcome to and today we’re taking a look at the Academy Award winning career of Leonardo DiCaprio.

Born on November 11th 1974, Leonardo DiCaprio was raised in Los Angeles, California. There he studied at the Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies before obtaining his high school diploma from John Marshall High School.

DiCaprio first began his career as a child actor by appearing in several commercials and educational films. However, his first significant television role came in 1990 when he landed a part on the television show “Parenthood”, based on the Ron Howard film of the same name. The series ultimately aired for only one season, however DiCaprio benefited from the moral support he received from Tobey Maguire, another struggling child actor he befriended on set. The following year, Leo made his feature-film debut in the low budget horror film Critters 3, which went un-noticed and straight to video.

Despite these setbacks, he would go on to play Luke Brower on ABC’s sitcom “Growing Pains”. Ironically the show helped him through his own growing pains as an actor, and the experience enabled DiCaprio to standout over hundreds of other boys auditioning for the part of troubled teenager Toby Wolff, opposite Robert De-Niro, in the 1992 film “This Boy’s Life.”

Next, DiCaprio starred alongside Johnny Depp in 1993’s “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”, a part that earned him enormous praise, along with Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations for best actor. Following this career boosting triumph, DiCaprio was suddenly able to get steady work and appeared in several blockbusters, including 1995’s “The Quick and the Dead”, in which he played Gene Hackman’s gun-slinging son.

DiCaprio then took on the lead roles in both the highly controversial drama film, “The Basketball Diaries”, and the modern-day reimagining of Shakespeare’s “Romeo + Juliet”, which became a huge success at the box-office.

Even with his tremendous accomplishments behind him, nothing could have prepared the young actor for superstardom and the period of ‘Leo-Mania” that would erupt in the wake of his role as Jack Dawson in 1997 blockbuster “Titanic."

Suddenly, Leo’s star power was able to carry films such as 1998’s “The Man In The Iron Mask” to stellar box-office returns. Yet, despite being a worldwide phenomenon DiCaprio still viewed himself as an edgy actor. This drew him to projects that followed an indie style. As a result he not only appeared in “Catch Me If You Can” opposite Tom Hanks, but in Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York.”

This project began an ongoing collaboration between the two men, who continued to work together on several high profile projects, including 2004’s biopic “The Aviator”. This film illustrated the life of American aviation pioneer Howard Hughes and his struggle with obsessive-compulsive disorder. This well-received performance, as well as that of undercover cop Billy Costigan in 2006’s “The Departed”, earned DiCaprio a Golden Globe Award and BAFTA Nomination respectively.

In recent years, DiCaprio has been attached to several high profile films. Among these were Blood Diamond, which earned him high praise for his masterful imitation of a South African accent and his environmental documentary “The 11th hour”, which detailed the ever-looming repercussions of inaction in the face of Global Warming. In 2007 and 2008 he then starred in the spy film, “Body of Lies”, and drama “Revolutionary Road”, opposite his former Titanic co-star Kate Winslet.

In 2010, Leo DiCaprio reunited with Martin Scorsese to bring the film adaptation of Dennis Lehane’s thriller novel “Shutter Island” to the big screen. This same year, he also appeared in Christopher Nolan’s visually distinct sci-fi film “Inception.”

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