Leonardo DiCaprio Does Not Step On Sidewalk
Leonardo DiCaprio Does Not Step On Sidewalk, Leonardo DiCaprio, whose signature as a star has been playing handsome boy-men (Titanic, Catch Me If You Can), reached an adult milestone Nov. 11. He turned 30. But “not much has changed, man,” says DiCaprio, who celebrated the day with a paintball war with friends and a late-night party at one of his favorite haunts, L.A.’s Prey. “It’s just another number to me. Certainly experiences make you more mature. But at the end of the day, I’m kind of the same guy.”
The kind of guy, in fact, who still enjoys playing basketball with his buddies on his home court, drives a partially electric-powered car and promotes environmental causes through his official Web site, leonardodicaprio.org. He also might want to take some time to draft an acceptance speech for February’s Oscar ceremony, judging by the praise coming his way for The Aviator, opening nationally Dec. 25.
In this big, passionate biopic directed by Martin Scorsese, DiCaprio plays tycoon Howard Hughes, multitasker extraordinaire: airplane engineer and record-setting pilot, movie producer, Hollywood play boy (Katharine Hepburn and Ava Gardner were among his conquests) and even bra designer (for Jane Russell, the star of Hughes’s 1943 western The Outlaw). DiCaprio, who pursued the project for years after reading a biography and concluding that this was “the most multidimensional character I could ever come across,” plays Hughes up until his 40s. By then his dazzling personality was being destroyed by the obsessive-compulsive disorder that ultimately drove him from public view; the film does not cover Hughes’s sad later years as an unkempt recluse (he died in 1976 at age 70). DiCaprio looks strikingly like young Hughes, right down to the prematurely furrowed brow. “Leo has this transformative quality,” says friend John C. Reilly, who plays Hughes’s business manager. “His personality and Howard’s synthesized to the point where you couldn’t get Leo out of your mind’s eye when you’d hear ‘Howard Hughes.’ ”
For a long scene in which Hughes suffers a breakdown and holes up naked in his projection room, DiCaprio-who has been acting professionally since he was 14-spent seven hours each day in makeup putting on a scraggly beard and spent the better part of a week standing nude in front of the crew. “They got to know me very intimately,” he told Katie Couric. “You just have to try to not focus on that.” He also met with an OCD expert, Jeffrey Schwartz of UCLA, and spent a few days one-on-one with a patient. He even relived the simple kids’ ritual of not stepping on sidewalk cracks until he had trouble quitting. “Sometimes,” he says, “it took me a while to get to [the] set, having to step on tons of things.”
During his off hours DiCaprio can still be spotted with pals like Lukas Haas and Kevin Connolly, hanging out in L.A. clubs. “You’ll see him lying down on the couch,” says one source, “looking out at the crowd. Just people-watching.” But the star is also focused on Gisele Bündchen, 24, his girlfriend of five years. The couple went through a rough time a few years ago-Bündchen told Vanity Fair she even moved back to her native Brazil for eight months to nurse her bruised feelings-but they’re on again. Marriage? DiCaprio told Oprah Winfrey recently that there are no such plans-”I’m just too happy doing what I’m doing”-but then he has always been secretive about personal stuff. Unlike Hughes, there’s a method and no madness to DiCaprio. “I’m an actor, and I want people to believe me in different roles,” he says. “I want to be in this business a long time.”