Handsome heartthrob actor Leonardo Wilhelm DiCaprio (1974-) was born on this day in Los Angeles, California and named after Da Vinci. His "miracle" mom was a German refugee.
"My mother was born in a bomb shelter,Ē he said in a 2004 Parade Magazine interview. "Her father was a coal miner who didnít believe in the Nazi regime, and the family tried to flee Germany."
From early on, Leonardo enjoyed performing and made his acting debut at age five on TV's Romper Room. Acting, he discovered, came from the need to be loved. "Any actor who says this isnít true is lying."
"My parents were both there for me. They're the coolest parents in the world and I feel proud to be their son," he said.
A hit as the disturbed but likable Luke Bower on the Growing Pains (1991), DiCaprio filmed the sitcom before a live studio audience and honed his acting skills.
Following a minor role in the film Poison Ivy (1992), the 19 year old DiCaprio portrayed Arnie, a mentally disabled 10 year-old in What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993). He was nominated for an Academy Award for the passionate role.
"Don't think for a moment that I'm really like any of the characters I've played. I'm not. That's why it's called 'acting,'" he admitted. The young star garnered international fame with his moving performance as heroic passenger Jack Dawson in Titanic (w/ Kate Winslet, 1997).
"If you can do what you do best and be happy, you're further along in life than most people," he said. An avid environmentalist, he established the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation in 1998 to fostered better awareness of environmental issues and served as global chairman of Earth Day 2000.
"Weíve been given this gift, our planet, and weíve found no other place in the universe that we can inhabit. I want to do something to create radical change to help save it. Itís our responsibility," he said.
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