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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 January 2005, 13:49 GMT
DiCaprio's rise to the mainstream
Leonardo DiCaprio
DiCaprio plays the lead role in The Aviator
Most people associate Leonardo DiCaprio's rise to fame with big-screen epic Titanic but a closer look at the actor's past reveals a wealth of challenging and critically acclaimed roles.

After a string of TV appearances and a role in the forgettable Critters 3, DiCaprio first cut his teeth alongside Hollywood legend Robert De Niro and Ellen Barkin in the 1993 film This Boy's Life.

DiCaprio beat four hundred hopefuls to the role of Toby, a young boy struggling to come to terms with his mother's marriage to an alcoholic and abusive mechanic.


In the same year came his Oscar-nominated performance in Lasse Hallstrom's What's Eating Gilbert Grape? as Gilbert's autistic brother Arnie.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Martin Scorsese
DiCaprio (left) and Scorsese worked together on Gangs of New York

DiCaprio went on to yet more controversial roles, as the central figure in the film adaptation of Jim Carroll's autobiographical novel The Basketball Diaries, which focused on the drug-riddled angst of a group of New York teenagers.

No less contentiously, he also starred as French poet Arthur Rimbaud in Agnieszka Holland's 1995 film Total Eclipse, which tackled the author's tumultuous relationship with Paul Verlaine.

A year later came DiCaprio's first foray into the mainstream with Baz Luhrmann's modern take on Romeo and Juliet, opposite Claire Danes, earning him critical acclaim amongst the teenage movie-going population.

Titanic success

But rather than follow it up with a Hollywood blockbuster, DiCaprio characteristically went with the rather more subdued Marvin's Room alongside stalwarts Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton.

Undoubtedly, audiences will most remember DiCaprio for his portrayal of Jack Dawson opposite Kate Winslet in James Cameron's Hollywood epic Titanic in 1997.

Cate Blanchett and Leonardo DiCaprio
He stars alongside Cate Blanchett in The Aviator

DiCaprio was thus propelled into the limelight and starred in several less arty offerings such as Danny Boyle's 2000 adaptation of Alex Garland's novel The Beach and Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can in 2002.

The same year saw DiCaprio's first pairing with director Martin Scorsese in the epic Gangs of New York alongside Daniel Day-Lewis, Jim Broadbent and Liam Neeson.

DiCaprio was now firmly cemented amongst audiences as a serious and versatile actor.

It allowed him to move into the demanding role of multi-talented aviator, director and film-maker Howard Hughes in 2004 with relative ease and won him a Golden Globe for best actor.

By the time he made Titanic DiCaprio had already tried his hand at so many varied and distinctly un-Hollywood roles, an eccentric film-maker must have seemed decidedly run-of-the-mill.


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