- Hollywood actor
- Outspoken environmentalist
- Supporter and funder of Democrat candidates and agendas
Born in Los Angeles on November 11, 1974, Leonardo DiCaprio began his career as an actor in the early 1990s with guest appearances on television programs like The New Lassie, Roseanne, and Growing Pains. He made his movie debut in the low-budget Critters 3 (1991), but his first significant film role came two years later, in This Boy's Life, which starred Robert De Niro. Prominent among DiCaprio's other major films were Titanic (1997), Django Unchained (a 2012 production emphasizing the evils of slavery in the antebellum South), and The Wolf of Wall Street (2013, depicting capitalism as a breeding ground for excess and corruption). For additional details of DiCaprio's acting career, click here.
Over the years, DiCaprio has cultivated a reputation as an outspoken environmentalist who believes that the carbon emissions associated with human industrial activity contribute heavily to global warming and its allegedly catastrophic ramifications. In 1998 he established an eponymous charitable philanthropy, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, “dedicated to protecting Earth’s last wild places and fostering a harmonious relationship between humanity and the natural world.”
In 2004 DiCaprio supported John Kerry’s presidential campaign, lauding his “years of leadership working to protect our oceans.” The actor called it “the most important election of my lifetime” and claimed that George W. Bush made “disastrous choices when it comes to the environment.”
In 2007 DiCaprio produced and narrated The 11th Hour, a documentary film about the grave threat posed by anthropogenic climate change. “Global warming is not only the number one environmental challenge we face today,” the actor said in a statement, “but one of the most important issues facing all of humanity.” “In the U.S. we are the ones who should be setting an example,” he added. “We are the largest democracy in the world—and also the largest polluters. If we don't take any action, then how can anyone else be expected to?”
DiCaprio greatly admires the policies and agendas—not least, those related to the environment and energy production—of Barack Obama. When Obama was elected president in 2008, DiCaprio said, “I couldn't be more proud of my country right now, proud to be an American, and I think the entire world was looking for a transition like this.” On Obama's Inauguration Day—January 20, 2009—DiCaprio spoke at the celebratory Neighborhood Ball in Washington.
On September 21, 2014, DiCaprio, accompanied by former Vice President Al Gore, participated in a “People’s Climate March” in New York City, where he demanded that global leaders take action to address the warming crisis.
Two days later, DiCaprio addressed a climate summit at the United Nations, where Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon hailed the actor as a “UN Messenger of Peace,” a “new voice for climate advocacy,” and a man whose “global stardom is the perfect match for this global challenge.” In his speech, DiCaprio asserted that a host of “new and undeniable climate events”—e.g., intensifying droughts, “warming and acidifying” oceans, “increased temperatures,” and “the West Antarctic and Greenland ice-sheets melting at unprecedented rates”—were evidence that if “industries and governments around the world” failed to take “decisive, large-scale action,” all of humanity “will surely perish.” “We need to put a pricetag on carbon emissions,” he explained, “and eliminate government subsidies for coal, gas, and oil companies.” In short, it was time to “end the free ride that industrial polluters have been given in the name of a free-market economy.”
Also in September 2014, the Clinton Global Initiative—a project of the Bill, Hillary, & Chelsea Clinton Fountation—honored DiCaprio for his environmental work.
In 2014 as well, DiCaprio funded the production of a series of short eco-documentaries urging the abandonment of fossil fuels, the enactment of carbon taxes, and an increased reliance on solar- and wind-generated power. The first film in the series, co-written by left-wing activist/talk-radio host Thom Hartmann: (a) characterizes the fossil fuels that formed from the decomposition of dead plants and animals “over millions of years,” as “an ancient menace”; (b) falsely claims that “97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is happening and caused by human activity”; (c) impugns oil companies for “making trillions of dollars” while supposedly pillaging the earth of its natural resources; (d) states that “we need to keep this carbon in the ground”; and (e) assures that “we no longer need the dead economy of the fossil-fuel industry.”
In April 2015, it was reported that DiCaprio was planning to transform Blackadore Caye—his privately owned, uninhabited island located off the coast of Belize—into an eco-resort and conservation area. DiCaprio and entrepreneur Jeff Gram together had purchased the island for $1.75 million ten years earlier, and now they were ready to develop it with 68 resort villas and 48 private houses that they hoped to sell for $5 million to $15 million apiece. In addition, they planned to make a number of rental dwellings available for visitors to the island, for an estimated $2,000 per night. Emphasizing that he and Gram would also work to restore Blackadore Caye from the effects of prolonged over-fishing, deforestation, and coastline erosion, DiCaprio predicted that his project would be “groundbreaking in the environmental movement” and could potentially “change the world.”
In a December 2015 interview, DiCaprio cited Naomi Klein as “one of the most powerful voices in the climate movement”; lamented that “we’ve locked ourselves, through capitalism, into an addiction to oil that’s incredibly hard to reverse”; lauded the work of Divest Invest, an organization that represents “a fantastic way you as an individual can say, 'I do not want to have investments in oil, coal, or gas'”; and praised Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders as “pretty inspiring” due to what he had said “about the environment [and] climate change” at a recent political debate.
Notwithstanding his condemnation of fossil fuels and carbon emissions, DiCaprio in 2012 paid $250,000 to reserve for himself a flight into outer space aboard the billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic rocket ship, which is powered by fossil fuel. Moreover, for many years DiCaprio has traveled extensively via gas-guzzling private jets and has socialized with people whose proverbial “carbon footprints” are among the world's largest. Some examples:
- In just one six-week period in 2014, he boarded a private jet at least six separate times.
- Documents published by WikiLeaks reveal that former Sony executive Amy Pascal approved hundreds of thousands of dollars to send DiCaprio as well as his manager, family members, and friends on multiple tours between Los Angeles and New York that same year.
- The Daily Mail reports that in 2014 DiCaprio took “at least 20 trips across the nation and around the world”—including “a ski vacation to the French Alps, another vacation to the French Riviera, flights to London and Tokoyo to promote his film Wolf of Wall Street, two trips to Miami, and [a] trip to Brazil to watch the World Cup.” In addition, “he spent his World Cup vacation on the fifth largest yacht in the world, a 482-foot behemoth owned by Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan—a billionaire oil tycoon from the [United Arab Emirates].”
- On May 16, 2016, DiCaprio attended the Cannes Film Festival in France, where he was seen partying at the Gotha Club with model Georgia Fowler. He then promptly flew back to the U.S., to attend the Riverkeeper Fishermen’s Ball on May 18 in New York, where he received an environmental award and was honored by actor Robert De Niro. Then, 24 hours later, DiCaprio was back in France for a Cinema Against AIDS gala, where he delivered a speech.
- On July 20, 2016, DiCaprio hosted his annual fundraiser gala in Saint Tropez, France, to raise money for various environmental projects. "We are the last generation that has a chance to stop climate change before it is too late," he told those in attendance. Two days later, DiCaprio rode a helicopter to the airport, where he boarded a private jet (whose fuel produces approximately 21 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions per gallon burned). (The actor also flew in a number of models for the fundraiser, and he gave them accommodations on a 300-foot luxury yacht.)
- In early May 2016 in New York City, DiCaprio attended a lavish, all-night, private party thrown by Saudi Prince Abdul Aziz bin Fahd, whose royal family has long been among the world's leading sellers of crude oil.
In early August 2016, DiCaprio announced that he was planning to host a $33,400-per-person fundraiser in his home for presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. Slated for August 23, the event was dubbed “Conversations with Hillary.” In accordance with campaign-finance maximums, the first $2,700 from each ticket would go directly to the Clinton campaign, while the rest would go to the broader Democratic Party.
In July 2016 DiCaprio's name was linked to a Justice Department investigation into a massive money-laundering scheme whose purpose had been to enrich top-level officials of 1MBD, a wealth fund controlled by the government of Malaysia. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak had established the fund in 2009 in order to promote economic development projects in his country, but the fund soon fell into billions of dollars worth of debt. This debt coincided with a Justice Department finding that people close to Najib had stolen at least $3.5 billion from the wealth fund. According to a USA Today report, much of that money was used to purchase assets in the United States, "including luxury properties in New York and California, a $35 million jet, art by Vincent Van Gogh and Claude Monet, and financing of [the 2013 DiCaprio film] The Wolf of Wall Street." When DiCaprio issued his acceptance speech for a Golden Globe award which he received for his Wolf of Wall Street performance, he thanked "the entire production team" and specifially named, as "collaborators" on the film, several individuals who were close to Najib and were implicated in the theft. In October 2016, USA Today reported that "DiCaprio says he's awaiting direction from the U.S. Justice Department regarding any ill-gotten funds that may have supported his environmental foundation or [his film]." Moreover, DiCaprio released a statement pledging that he would return any donations of money that had derived from the Malaysian fund. In October 2016 as well, a Swiss rainforest charity demanded that DiCaprio resign from his post as a United Nations "Messenger of Peace" if he failed to reveal whatever financial ties he had to 1MBD.
DiCaprio today has a net worth of $220 million and owns at least four lavish homes: two apartments in New York City and mansions in Hollywood and Palm Springs. In 2013 he sold a beachside estate in Malibu for $17.35 million.
For additional information on Leonardo DiCaprio, click here.