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Titanic, the true love

Leonardo DiCaprio
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Leonardo di Caprio, 955 S. Carrillo Drive 300, Los Angeles, CA 90048, USA

Leonardo's Masterpiece: 'Titanic' star Leonardo DiCaprio is quite
simply the world's biggest hearthrob
(Vanity Fair)


Leonardo DiCaprio's epic year began down in the heat and gringo badlands of the Baja, where James Cameron filmed Titanic, his ultramarine romance, on 40 customized acres by the sea. Titanic is one big boat, a $200-million-plus, high-tech period piece, floated by two studios with a cast of a thousand, a 775-foot-long replica of the ship, and an open-air tank vast enough to capture the illusion of the ocean's calm-all at a cost likely to exceed not only that of Waterworld but the budgets of Waterworld and Jurassic Park combined.

To call Cameron's Titanic, which arrives this month, the most ambitious of the many screen depictions of that famously doomed vessel's iceberg encounter is to make minnow claims. And lest anyone conclude that the crew was lolling around in the Mexican sun or lapping up margaritas at the Rock 'n' Roll Taco
just off Route 1, Cameron-the boss action director of Hollywood-drove his troops with the mania of the immortality-obsessed. The result is a spectacular achievement, a film that is intimate and grand, turbulent and beautiful, but-above all-breathtakingly realistic. When DiCaprio's character, dressed in dazzling white tie, spirits his wealthy new love to steerage for a rambunctious evening that ends in the backseat of a stored Rolls, he becomes a star of the first order and the exuberant heart of the picture.

But how was Leo to know? When he arrived in Rosarito, he had already spent four months in Mexico shooting William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, a racy reprise that hit No. 1 on the Variety list and drew on his audacious acting, as well as those romantic looks-the slacker torso, Keatsian visage, and
dropping blond forelock-which have made him catnip to budding teenage girls. But in Rosarito, the 23-year-old star and inveterate complainer was seriously considering whether next time he ought to factor in a film's location before signing.

"Botswana? Fine," he'd say. "But I was in Mexico too long." He was sick of the brown land, the mariachi merriment, and Cameron's big tub. Even more fatiguing was the endless drone of how Titanic would catapult him, a baby- cheeked rebel who barely shaves, to the status of leading man. And though he
admired Cameron, and liked his role as the cocky artist who steals co-star Kate Winslet's waterproof heart, DiCaprio instinctively saw himself as someone other than a big-time, big-budget star who could be hailed on street corners by just ... Leo!

His reservations didn't sink as work-weeks hit the 70-hour mark and he bobbed through the water scenes he had detested from the moment he first edged catlike into the tank. He missed his life back in L.A. and his gang-the witty Jonah Johnson and actors Tobey Maguire, Kevin Connelly, Vincent Laresca, Dash Mihok, and Ethan Suplee. He missed the horseplay-"you know, normal adolescent high jinks," as Suplee says.

And so with the same dedicated fondness for comfort and raillery as Dean Martin-who had steaks dispatched from the Sands in Vegas while making The Sons of Katie Elder in Durango-DiCaprio flew in his homeys. "Usually, Leo has in his contract that they have to give him x number of plane tickets so he can have his friends come and hang out," Jonah Johnson says. Johnson, DiCaprio's assistant for the movie, recalls the day he ambled over to the set, took a good look at the four soundstages, the 17-million-gallon water tank, the smokestacks rising majestically against the sky, the hordes of extras running around in period clothes ... and thought, This is bullshit.

DiCaprio would have chosen a different word (at least with a reporter) to describe the scene, but how could he help but be concerned? All his entrancing qualities-the brashness, the sweet adolescent awkwardness-were about to be given heroic dimension and Hollywood spin ... love, innocence, the
perils of the sea. DiCaprio, who had confined himself mainly to playing oddballs and misfits in movies such as What's Eating Gilbert Grape? and last year's Marvin's Room, was ambivalent about being seen as "a young Gary Cooper" (Cameron's take on DiCaprio's character, Jack Dawson). At the wrap party in
March, Winslet presented him with a thick thermal blanket, in which he buried himself. "After the whole experience," he says now, "I know it's really not my cup of tea-all respect to Jim and the actors who do that type of thing."

But it was obvious to all that DiCaprio's days of casually protecting his anonymity with pulled-down baseball caps were numbered. He had already been chased from the Louvre by 30 squealing girls, who tried to claw the shirt off his back right near the Mona Lisa. Now, as if guided by some mysterious
hormonal radar, they were outside his apartment near the Champs-Elysees. Sometimes Jonah Johnson would open a window, look down at their honest, trembling, Polly Magoo faces, and throw water on them. "They loved it," swears Johnson. If they were like any of the countless girls who come up to
his Romeo and Juliet co-star Claire Danes just to touch a hand that touched his, they probably didn't mind the shower. To them, Titanic or dinghy, he was and always would be Leo the Babe.

The fact is, there are lots of ways to see Leonardo Wilhelm DiCaprio, but only one matters. Certainly he is the party boy who digs late nights at hangouts such as L.A.'s Sky Bar and who loves trolling for runway beauties. (His longest relationship, about 15 months, involved model Kristen Zang, who formerly dated Nick Cage.) And certainly those who see him as a celebrity treated with deference, rolling up with an entourage or bragging about his perks, tend to dismiss him as just a jerk. And you can't deny that he's had
his fun with interviewers (as when he sarcastically said in 1996, "Oh yeah, once I became famous, bam, I just dumped my old friends"). Nor can you ignore the daredevil in Leo (who in the midst of The Man in the Iron Mask went racing in all-terrain vehicles with a friend, who broke his fibula), the guy who refuses to rein in his lust for skydiving, bungee jumping, and the like. ("Leo's no pussy," says Johnson in defense. "But he doesn't have a death wish, either.") Indeed, you might say that he will entertain any reasonable
risk to demonstrate that he is still a regular guy.

But-and this is the essential thing to know about DiCaprio-despite the frenzy exploding around him, he remains serenly cocooned in his familiar, comfortable lifestyle. He still lives with his German-born mother, Irmelin, in a ranch house in Los Feliz not far from their old, rougher neighborhood, near the water-mattress motels of Holllywood Boulevard. His relationship with his divorced parents (his father, George, a former comic-book distributor, is involved in his son's career) is so open that it would read like bunkum if it didn't appear to be true. Although DiCaprio is a millionaire-his back-end picture deals have brought him "first dollar" returns in the high seven figures-he has a coupon clipper's sense of thrift, spending his money mainly on computer and video equipment and the occasional sport-utility vehicle.
"Leo's cheap," says Ethan Suplee. "I feel funny saying that, but I've said it to him. But he'll look for a place in the street to park rather than use valet parking."

And contrary to his flippant quotes, DiCaprio has not dumped all his old friends. "He's one of the most loyal people I know," says Claire Danes. "it's one of his most marked characteristics." His friends are all-in their horseplay, truthfulness, and risk taking-his constant reality. As Jonah Johnson says, "Outside the house he may be famous, but inside he's no longer famous. He's just Leo the jerk, like us."

The curious thing is, I actually didn't want Leo at first," Jim Cameron says. "Leo was recommended by the studios, as were other young, hot actors ... He didn't strike me as necessarily having the qualities that I wanted for my Jack."

It was vital to Cameron that Jack be played by someone with big-screen charisma. And that didn't sound like Leonardo. "But," says Cameron, "I met him and basically just loved him. He can quickly charm a group of people without doing anything obvious ... The second I met him I was convinced."
From the beginning, says DiCaprio, he had doubts about doing "a big-budget, Hollywood movie," but overcame most of them after meeting Cameron and learning that Winslet was involved. Cameron, very cunningly, challenged his reluctant star by telling him that acting involves more than quirky characters. "Look, in a way, that's the easy stuff," Cameron remembers advising, "because you've got shit to hide behind. When you're playing someone who is very clear ... you have to make the scenes work from a place of purity."

Many thanks for your kind words Cathy Horyn. The credit is yours! "Leonardo's Masterpiece: 'Titanic' star Leonardo DiCaprio is quite simply the world's biggest hearthrob." Vanity Fair, January 1998.
Some pictures and words on my pages are obviously the property of someone else. I hope I'm not violating any copyright-laws or anything. I try to let see the names of the person(s), who made this happend and let see other homepages too. I just don't want to credit for something, what I'm not responsible for. I'm just a big fan of Titanic.....!
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Last modified on Tuesday 24 February 1998