Catch him if you can

Last Updated: Sat, Jul 31, 2010 18:40 hrs

Over the last decade, Leonardo DiCaprio has established himself as one of the finest actors in Hollywood.

Talking about Denzel Washington, Julia Roberts once said, "I cannot absorb living in a world where I have an Oscar for Best Actress, and Denzel doesn’t have one for Best Actor." Well the same can be said of Leonardo DiCaprio. He’s worked with great directors, stood out in films starring legendary actors, had blockbuster hits, won critical acclaim — it’s a wonder the 35-year-old actor has not got an Academy Award as yet.

DiCaprio, the son of an underground comic artist and producer of comic books, was apparently rejected by a casting agent when he was 11. Seven years later, he made his film debut with Critters 3, which did very well. Two years later, he delivered a stellar performances in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), where he completely stole the show from Johnny Depp. DiCaprio’s portrayal of the mentally challenged Arnie Grape landed him his first Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. He was only 19.

DiCaprio followed it up with The Basketball Diaries, playing Jim Carroll, a teenage basketball star who gets addicted to heroin. The movie didn’t do well but Dicaprio’s performance had everyone talking. In fact, it was this performance that propelled him into the league of young talented actors in the 1990s.

Of course, it was James Cameron’s Titanic that made Dicaprio a household name. The movie’s success did wonders for his career. Refusing to get typecast, his next outings at the box office had him playing a Scottish king in The Man in the Iron Mask, and an American backpacker Richard in Danny Boyle’s The Beach (2000) who comes to Thailand in search of an experience that was different from the ordinary — one of his most underrated performances.

Since 2002, when DiCaprio did Gangs of New York — the first of four movies with Martin Scorsese — his career trajectory has been on the up and up. In the past decade he has played diverse characters including that of Frank Abagnale, a conman of the 70s in Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can. He shed his boyish image with Scorsese’s The Aviator, where he played Howard Hughes, the aviation industry pioneer, and the critically acclaimed Blood Diamond, where he played a Rhodesian diamond smuggler.

Critics often dismiss Dicaprio saying he usually plays similar characters — angry, brooding men like Billy Costigan in The Departed, Teddy Daniels in Shutter Island, and Dom Cobb in the latest, Inception. He needs to do a comedy, some say. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that DiCaprio is, perhaps, the finest actor of his generation — and a very successful one at that.

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