DiCaprio's career began with his appearing in several commercials and educational films. He got his break on television in 1990 when he was cast in the short-lived series based on the movie Parenthood. On set, he met another struggling child actor, Tobey Maguire. The two quickly became friends and made a pact to help each other find roles in TV and movies. After Parenthood, DiCaprio had bit parts on several shows, including The New Lassie and Roseanne, as well as a brief stint on the soap opera Santa Barbara, playing the young Mason Capwell.
His debut film role was Critters 3, a B-grade horror film, which later went straight to video. Soon after, in 1991, he became a recurring cast member on the hit ABC sitcom Growing Pains, playing Luke Brower, a homeless boy who is taken in by the Seavers.
His breakthrough came in 1992, when he beat out hundreds of other boys for the role of Toby Wolff in This Boy's Life, co-starring Robert De Niro and Ellen Barkin. His performance as the troubled, abused teenager was critically acclaimed and Hollywood soon took notice. Later in 1993, he co-starred as the mentally handicapped brother to Johnny Depp in What's Eating Gilbert Grape. His performance earned him both Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for best supporting actor.
1995 was an eventful year for DiCaprio. That year he starred in four movies; in the first one, The Quick and the Dead, he played Gene Hackman's alleged son, Fee, starring alongside Sharon Stone and Russell Crowe.
After The Quick and The Dead, he starred in Total Eclipse, a fictionalized account of the homosexual relationship between Paul Verlaine (David Thewlis) and Arthur Rimbaud. River Phoenix was originally cast as Rimbaud, but died before production.
The black-and-white film Don's Plum, a low budget drama featuring the actor and his friends (including Tobey Maguire) was filmed between 1995 and 1996. Its release was blocked by DiCaprio and Maguire, who argued that they never intended to make it a theatrical release. Nevertheless, it premiered in Berlin in 2001.
Also in 1995, he starred as Jim Carroll in The Basketball Diaries, a life story of drugs and prostitution. Baz Luhrmann's 1996 film Romeo + Juliet, again featured DiCaprio as the male lead and was one of the first films to cash in on DiCaprio's future star-status, with a worldwide box office take of $147 million. Later that year he starred in Marvin's Room, reuniting with Robert De Niro and appearing alongside Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton.
Superstardom and "Leo-Mania"
The move from "star" to "superstar" came when DiCaprio played Jack Dawson in the 1997 blockbuster Titanic, alongside Kate Winslet as Rose DeWitt Bukater, also known as Rose Dawson out of her love for Jack, later becoming the highest-grossing film of all time, up to that point, with a worldwide gross of over $1.8 billion, and received a record-setting eleven Academy Awards. In 1998, he made a cameo appearance in Woody Allen's satire Celebrity. That year, he also starred in the dual roles of the villainous King Louis XIV and his secret, sympathetic twin brother Philippe in The Man in the Iron Mask, which was a box office success, despite garnering mixed to negative reviews. Consequently, his popularity skyrocketed, with the media dubbing it "Leo-mania". What came with fame were tales in the tabloids of excesses and indulgence. Time summed up the fame superhighway and its trappings in an interview with the actor in 2000, reporting:
DiCaprio still thinks of himself as an edgy indie actor, not the Tiger Beat cover boy. "I have no connection with me during that whole Titanic Phenomenon and what my face became around the world," DiCaprio commented, adding, "I'll never reach that state of popularity again, and I don't expect to. It's not something I'm going to try to achieve either."
In 2002, DiCaprio starred in Gangs of New York (directed by Martin Scorsese) and Catch Me If You Can (directed by Steven Spielberg). Both films were very well received by critics. Forging a collaboration with Scorsese, the two paired again for a biopic of American aviation pioneer Howard Hughes in The Aviator, a film that scored DiCaprio a second Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
DiCaprio continued his run with Scorsese in the 2006 film The Departed as Billy Costigan, a smart undercover cop in Boston. His next film was Blood Diamond, released in December 2006. The film itself received generally favorable reviews and DiCaprio was praised for the authenticity of his South African Afrikaner accent, known as a difficult accent to emulate.
In 2006, the Golden Globes and Broadcast Film Critics Association nominated DiCaprio twice in the same category: Best Actor for Blood Diamond and The Departed. Also in the same year, he received two nominations for the Screen Actors Guild Awards, a lead actor nomination for Blood Diamond and a supporting actor nomination for The Departed. He earned an Oscar nomination for lead actor in Blood Diamond and a BAFTA nod for lead actor for The Departed.
DiCaprio starred in 2008's Body of Lies, directed by Ridley Scott and co-starring Russell Crowe, Vince Colosimo, and Golshifteh Farahani. The same year, he appeared in Revolutionary Road, an adaptation of Richard Yates' 1961 novel. The latter reunited DiCaprio with his Titanic costars Kate Winslet and Kathy Bates. DiCaprio was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama for his performance.
In 2010, DiCaprio starred in Shutter Island, a film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Dennis Lehane, and the science-fiction film Inception, directed and produced by Christopher Nolan.