OK Magazine - March 2000
Hes one of the biggest movie stars in the world and his face adorns the bedroom walls of thousands of young female fans the world over. But, considering the acclaim and adulation he has attracted, Leonardo DiCaprio remains down-to-earth.
Despite hitting the big time following the enormous success of Titanic, the 24-year-old actor has never been one for playing the big star in real life. And his friends have been impressed by how little he has changed. He prefers downtown bars and nightclubs to swanky restaurants and showbiz parties except when he is promoting a film and says he will not be attending this years Oscars on March 26. "I have nothing against those awards shows but I just feel really uncomfortable in those places", he explains.
He has the same close circle of friends he has known for years and his favourite pastime is hanging out with them and, as he says, gooftng around. Our revealing pictures show the real Leo a big kid at heart - visiting his cousins home in the L4 suburb of Newport Beach with some young friends. Bare-chested and wearing green jogging pants he looks happy and relaxed as he has a playful fight and sits by the open fireplace talking to the youngsters, who see him not as a movie star but as one of their gang.
Despite growing up m a run-down area of Los Angeles where gangs and drug addicts roamed the streets, Leo enjoyed a very happy childhood. His hippy parents separated a year after his birth and although he lived with his mother, he saw his father frequently and has remained close to them both. Leo often makes the point that he owes a lot to his parents mum Irmelin, a German refugee who worked as a legal secretary, and dad George, whose grandfather was an Italian immigrant. George was a cartoonist and leading light in the world of anarchic, underground comics in the late Sixties. He was also a friend of beat poet Allen Ginsberg and LSD guru Timothy Leary. With these influences in his life, Leo was raised in a liberal environment and his free spirit is a result of that.
Although he likes to splash out on nights on the town with his friends in haunts such as LAs Sky Bar, he is not particularly interested in material things and only recently moved out of the home he shared with his mother. "Im not really frugal but I dont spend a lot of money on ridiculous things. I take care of my parents very well," he says.
Leo often takes his mother with him to film premieres and even gave her and his grandmother fleeting roles in his latest movie The Beach, which was set in Thailand. He is full of admiration for his father, too, and cites him as a huge influence on his life. "My dad is a Buddha-like figure to me. Hes what I would like to be someday. I would like to be together like that," Leo says.
There was little money around when Leo was a child, but there was no lack of love and he has very fond memories of growing up. "My parents are so much a part of my life, theyre like my legs or something. They were great. They were always there for me," he recalls. "I had some good friends too. One of the things I liked best about my childhood was the repetitiveness of the things we did. We did the same things went to the same museums, took the same pony rides and those things have become locked in my memory as one good experience."
But Leo was shrewd enough, at a young age, to realise that acting was a way out of the squalor of his surroundings. "Money was on my mind when I was growing up wondering how we were going to afford this and that. Acting seemed to be a short-cut out of the mess," he says. But there was another agenda. "I thought it would be cool and all the girls would see me," he admits.
He started doing commercials and joined a drama group before landing a role in the US TV series Parenthood in 1990, playing the eldest son. A year later he was playing a homeless boy in the popular US series Growing Pains. "My parents drove me to auditions and helped me with my lines," he says.
His big break was opposite Robert De Niro in This Boys Life and he put in equally impressive performances in Wbats Eating Gilbert Grape?, The Basketball Diaries and Romeo And Juliet.
Being wealthy enough to move with his mother to a smarter area of LA was one thing, but Leo was unprepared for the reality of fame. "Fame was all so unreal to me when it happened. It was almost like a joke", he says. "I was determined to be who I was and I was going to lead my normal life and do what I wanted." But his star status meant that he was never going to be quite so ordinary again.
"I was at an airport somewhere and this girl grabbed my leg. It was like one of those things I had seen in a Beatles or Elvis documentary," he says. "There was this lost, vacant look in her eyes. She was fanatical. I wanted to say to her, 'Look, its just me. Im really, truly, a regular guy. You dont need to do this.' But there was nothing I could say. She wouldnt have listened."
After his recent ecstatic reception in London for the premiere of The Beach, Leo said, "Its weird. Its almost like its not me out there. It feels as if its happening to somebody else. I dont I feel like they could be screaming for me. But Im very lucky person, I dont complain."
He is clearly uncomfortable in these kinds of situations, which explains why he frequently has his ring of friends in tow at premieres and during movie shoots. They are people he has known since before was famous and who help keep his Feet on the ground. "My friends Jonah and Vincent will spend an entire day together and not say one serious thing to each other. But it makes the times when we actually say something meaningful and real just 100 times more powerful," he says.
Some of his gang are also actors and performers, such as Tobey Maguire, who starred in The Ice Storm, Lukas Haas, who played alongside Harrison Ford in Witness, and magician David Blame. All have nothing but praise for their old pal; Tobey even credits Leo with saving his life. "When we were young kids we went climbing in the Los Angeles mountains," he recalls. "I slipped and started to fall backwards. Leo reached out and caught me in mid-air. He saved my life." Leo met David Blame after seeing him on stage in New York and was eager to find out how he had performed his tricks. "We became instant pals and have been tight ever since," says David. "Hes the most trustworthy and loyal guy Ive ever known."
Leos Romeo and Juliet co-star Claire Danes echoes these sentiments. "Leo is one of the most loyal people I know. Its one of his most marked characteristics. I spent four months filming with him and couldnt figure him out. I still cant figure out whether hes really transparent or incredibly complex, I think hes the latter, but I still dont know." Although he has had a long-term romance with model Kristen Zang, Leo says he currently lives alone. Trapped between his star status and his ordinary Joe nature, he is wary of the magnetic nature of fame and is aware that true romance may be hard to find. "When I meet a person, I have to know if theyre a genuine individual or just someone who wants to hang out with a star," he says. "As far as women are concerned I have to be cautious. I must be convinced that a girl likes me for myself and not my image as a movie star."
Thanks to Stelingo who posted it !
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Leo & his cousins
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