Leonardo Wilhelm DiCaprio was born on November 11, 1974, in Los Angeles, California. Known for his work in biographical and period films, the actor and producer disliked public school and wanted to audition for acting jobs instead. He dropped out of high school, eventually earning a general equivalency diploma (GED). As a child, DiCaprio liked impersonating characters and imitating people, and enjoyed seeing their reactions to his acting. His interest in performing began at age two when he went onto the stage at a performance festival and danced spontaneously to a positive response from the crowd. Leo’s first television appearance was in the children’s series Romper Room at five years old, but he claimed he was fired off the show for being disruptive. In a 1994 interview, he said it was his favorite show, but “they couldn’t control me. I would run up and smack the camera, and I’d jump around and do my little flips and routines. I wish I could get that tape now.”
Commercials and Failures
At 14, he began appearing in several commercials for Matchbox Cars, which he calls his first role. He played “a little gangster with slicked-back hair.” Though he was “so incredibly nervous,” the lesson that he learned was to learn his lines. His advice for aspiring actors is to “just get that over with because once you learn your lines, then you can kind of settle in to all the other moments in a scene.” DiCaprio later appeared in commercials for Kraft Singles, Bubble Yum, and Apple Jacks. His first television role was in 1989, playing the role of Glen in two episodes of The New Lassie.
At the beginning of his career, an agent suggested he change his name to Lenny Williams to appeal to American audiences, which he declined to do. The aspiring actor didn’t find work for over a year despite having over 100 auditions. Finally, a talent agent who knew his mother’s friend recommended him to casting directors, and he secured about 20 commercials. By the early ’90s, DiCaprio began acting regularly on television, with a role in the pilot of The Outsiders and one episode of the soap opera Santa Barbara.
After starring in films like What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, Romeo + Juliet, and Marvin’s Room, Leo snagged the role which earned him worldwide recognition and “Leo-mania“: Titanic. With 47 acting credits below his belt, take a look below at our favorite DiCaprio movies, ranked: