Before Robert De Niro became a caricature of himself (see “Dirty Grandpa” and “The Intern”), he was widely considered one of Hollywood’s greatest actors, along with such heavyweights as Pacino and Jack Nicholson.
Like any other industry – sports, technology, science – there are always new people who come along to assume the mantle of the best; for every De Niro, there’s a De Niro 2.0.
These days, that list of heir apparents can probably start with Tom Cruise. And it includes George Clooney, Johnny Depp and Matt Damon.
This Sunday, one actor who belongs in that select group – Leonardo DiCaprio – may finally receive the one award, an Oscar, which has eluded him since he came into the public consciousness in 1993 for his role as the developmentally-challenged Arnie in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.”
That performance earned him a Best Supporting Actor nod though he was passed over by voters who gave the award to Tommy Lee Jones for his work in “The Fugitive.”
He has since been nominated two other times in 2005 (“The Aviator”) and 2007 (“Blood Diamond”) though he has yet to capture the industry’s highest award. There is a good chance that the fourth time may be the charm.
This year he has been nominated once again for his torturous portrayal of Hugh Glass, the real-life fur trapper from the 1820s who was mauled by a bear, robbed and left for dead by his companions before struggling to safety while spending several months in the wilderness.
All of this is graphically depicted in “The Revenant.” The movie is bleak, stark and brutal, excruciatingly difficult to watch because the pain being felt by Glass is brought to life by DiCaprio. He has already garnered a Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA for the gut-wrenching performance.
Many are predicting an Academy Award is next in line for the long-time actor who grew up in Los Angeles, using acting, as noted in this Daily Mail piece, as a way to lift him and his family out of poverty.
In the process, he has provided thought-provoking entertainment, starring in such movies as “Catch Me If You Can”, “The Departed” and “The Wolf of Wall Street.” He may be best known for “Titanic”, the second highest-grossing movie of all time. DiCaprio did not let the success of that popular movie pigeonhole him as an actor who only stars in Hollywood blockbusters.
An Eclectic Film Career
Instead, his career has seen him take on parts that are unconventional, which stretch his limits and are often daring. “Django Unchained”, “Inception” and “Revolutionary Road” are just a few cinematic examples.
While not every DiCaprio film has been a success, he has made intelligent choices as he’s paved an admirable career for one with leading-man looks. When audiences watch a film starring DiCaprio, they can be assured they are getting the best of the actor’s talents. And really, what more can you ask?
But his passion does not stop once he’s off-camera. DiCaprio has used his fame to improve the world for the better.
While filming “Blood Diamond,” he worked with 24 orphaned children from SOS’s Children’s Villages, a nonprofit that provides care for children with deceased or missing parents.
His most visible work focuses on the environment through the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation which he created in 1998. Recently, DiCaprio announced his foundation would be donating $15 million to protect endangered species, expand protected areas on land and at sea and empower indigenous communities to fight back against corporate encroachment on their land. This is on top of another $15 million the foundation donated to similar environmental causes last year.
Not only is DiCaprio an icon of the silver screen, but he’s an icon of the planet, taking steps to ensure future generations will be able to enjoy the type of art he makes well after he’s gone.
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Words of an Icon: “If you can do what you do best and be happy, you’re further along in life than most people.” – Leonardo DiCaprio