Борис Бурда
Author: Boris Burda
Journalist, writer, bard. Winner of the «Diamond Owl» intellectual game «What? Where? When?»
Liberal ArtsNomina
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ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Leonardo DiCaprio, grandson of an immigrant from Odesa (Ukraine) — Oscar winner

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Leonardo DiCaprio, grandson of an immigrant from Odesa (Ukraine) — Oscar winner
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Leonardo Wilhelm DiCaprio (born in 1974 in the USA) is an American actor, producer and public figure. Winner of numerous awards including the Academy Awards, BAFTAs, Screen Actors Guild, three Golden Globes, and the Berlin Film Festival’s Silver Bear.




It was my school year, that was the first, in which biology was taught from new textbooks. They did not contain a word about the advanced teaching of Academician Lysenko, and the word “genetics” was the name of science, and not a subject for ritual spitting. That was why it was interesting.

So many biological terms remain in my memory. For example, the word “heterosis”, it is a phenomenon of hybrid force, which means, that the more distant the relationship of the parents are, the more viable their offspring is. Moreover, it applies to plants, animals, and people.

Living in Odesa, where from the days of its foundation the most different peoples have been constantly mixing, I tend to believe this statement. The variety of genetic combinations only increases the chances that one of them will turn out to be extremely successful. And there are plenty of such examples in history.

So the hero of our today’s article is a child of several peoples, and quite different ones. And in the end, everything turned out to be excellent for him —  outstanding intelligence, acting abilities, the ability to be appreciated and as for appearance, it is almost a standard in general. You should notice this is also important!




He was completely fine with heterosis. The father was born from an Italian from Naples and a German from Bavaria, his maternal grandfather was also a German, but his wife Olena Stepanivna Smirnova was born in Odesa, already successful in terms of heterosis, shortly before the revolution.

Very early on, his grandmother’s parents realized that post-revolutionary nightmares were just the opening act, and they took the child to Germany on time. She grew up, married a German with the imperial name Wilhelm, and then it turned out that reality in Germany is not much better than in the USSR.

She failed to emigrate for a second time — it’s still a miracle that she was not sent to a concentration camp for her Soviet origin. She had to give birth to her daughter in 1943, not somewhere, but in a bomb shelter, right during an air raid. But the family was lucky — she was fortunate enough to wait until the end of the war.

In 1955, grandmother emigrated for a second time, this time overseas. There, her daughter Irmeline, while still at the university, met another student named George. The acquaintance ended in a short, but quite official marriage — which is even strange for the hippies …

During pregnancy, Irmelin flew to Europe — she, like many others, believed that if you look at something beautiful during this period, it is useful for the child. In the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, a child pushed her from the inside just next to Leonardo’s paintings. This is how he got his name.




The family turned out to be fragile — his parents separated when he was one year old. But they both loved and cared for the child. Later he said,  “My father and mother are the coolest parents in the world. I don’t trust anyone as much as them”. The grandmother from Odesa also took good care of him.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Leonardo DiCaprio, grandson of an immigrant from Odesa (Ukraine) — Oscar winner
In childhood

Nevertheless, they both did not live well. Parents taught their son, in his words, “to be content with little, not to pay attention to which store the clothes were bought in or at which store the food was bought, because it doesn’t matter if you have something to wear and you are not starving”.

Leonardo recalled, “My mother and I lived in an area where there were only dealers and prostitutes. It was quite creepy there, I was often beaten up. I’ve seen people have sex on the street. And I saw what drugs do with people: you no longer belong to yourself”. For many people, such environment usually breaks their lives, and it is the reason why he started to hate drugs.

He does not like the talk that he was just lucky to be born in Hollywood — there are different areas around Hollywood, as you can see for yourself … But the fact that his father was a distributor of comics and really had acquaintances in Hollywood circles served him good …




With such appearance and such connections, they will definitely shoot somewhere — the only thing is for you to wish it! The boy began to appear in commercials — at the beginning, toy cars, then oatmeal, cheese, chewing gum, and already real cars like Honda and Suzuki. The main thing is not to forget the text!

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Leonardo DiCaprio, grandson of an immigrant from Odesa (Ukraine) — Oscar winner
A little older

A bit later, at the age of 14, he played in the Roseanne TV series — it was already a movie. He also starred in the familiar series The New Lassie (do you remember the wonderful shepherd Collie?). And at the age of 16, Leo even appeared in the world-famous Santa Barbara, and in the role of one of the main characters of the film, Mason (albeit in childhood, but still a nice line in the resume).

The young man took his new career extremely seriously. Already at the age of 15, he acquired his own agent who was involved in promoting him in the film business. The agent suggested to change his name to a more familiar for the United States — Lenny Williams. But he decided to stay Leonardo DiCaprio.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Leonardo DiCaprio, grandson of an immigrant from Odesa (Ukraine) — Oscar winner
With his grandmother from Odesa

By the way, after his role in Santa Barbara, DiCaprio was firstly nominated for the Youth In Film Award — it was intended for the best young actor. He did not receive an award, but the nomination itself is also some kind of award. There will be many more nominations, and far less awards …




The decisive step in his film career was done by Robert De Niro himself, who persuaded the debutant, who had not yet reached his twenties, to star in the film This Boy’s Life with him. DiCaprio played a teenager in a difficult family situation, and De Niro played his evil stepfather.

It was followed by the film What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? where DiCaprio had a complicated role of mentally retarded teenager, and even though he was the Oscar and the Golden Globe nominee, but of course he didn’t win anything — as usual.

But participation in the film Total Eclipse by Agnieszka Holland created problems with his image. He played Arthur Rimbaud, the picture was dedicated to his homosexual affair with Paul Verlaine, and the female fans who admired his appearance were infuriated.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Leonardo DiCaprio, grandson of an immigrant from Odesa (Ukraine) — Oscar winner
As Arthur Rimbaud

On top it off, DiCaprio played very well, although making a huge effort on himself — he was not at all attracted to it. The performer of the role of Verlaine reassured him, “No complexes, Leo, this is acting and nothing more!”, And he did an excellent job.

Journalists began to ask questions, how the role reflects his own aspirations … In order to somehow ease the pressure on his image, information about his girlfriends was leaked, but the rumors did not subside. He directly stated that he was not gay — but it had to be repeated more than once.




 To play Romeo against the background of such ridiculous rumors was an absolutely correct image move. Nevertheless, DiCaprio did not agree to this right away. It can be explained — the proposal of the director Baz Luhrmann was rather strange and unusual.

The action of the film was moved to our time, to the small American town of Verona Beach, where the Italian-American gangster clans of Montague and Capulet compete. Mercutio in the film is black, Tybalt is an obvious latino, and revolvers are used instead of daggers.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Leonardo DiCaprio, grandson of an immigrant from Odesa (Ukraine) — Oscar winner
Romeo with black Mercutio

Nevertheless, these revolvers are still called daggers, moreover, the text of Shakespeare sounds from the lips of the heroes practically unchanged. There is a little of surprise in this — the feelings are practically the same, people, unlike technology, have not changed much. It’s easy to quickly accepts this convention while watching a movie .

The film was extremely successful at the box office, and had a good press, although there were critics who did not accept the assumptions made. And DiCaprio, for his role as Romeo, finally received the prestigious international award — Silver Bear of the Berlin Film Festival.




Soon Leo got the role, about which he himself said, “I will never again reach this level of popularity and do not expect it. I will not try to achieve this success again”. By the way, he did not immediately agree to it and took it only out of respect for James Cameron.

It was the main role in the film Titanic – a superblockbuster that broke all major cinematic records. A budget of $ 200,000,000, fees are 9 times more — $ 1,800,000,000, 14 nominations for Oscar, of which he received 11 — only Ben-Hur in 1959 and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King in 2003 could do this. And how about the award of Best Actor? No — je wasn’t even nominated …

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Leonardo DiCaprio, grandson of an immigrant from Odesa (Ukraine) — Oscar winner
Film Titanic. I am the king of the world

However, the film received 87 various cinematic awards and 48 more nominations, and only one of them still went to DiCaprio. It is very revealing, what kind of award he got — Best Actor at the MTV Movie Awards, deliberately aimed at the younger generation.

Indeed, who doubts the success of the film, which grossed $ 2.2 billion in theaters and $ 1.2 billion in video and CD sales and rentals? And in the list “100 years – 100 of the best quotes from films of all time” in the last, hundredth, place was the phrase of the hero DiCaprio: “I am the king of the world!”


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Several films, in which Leo starred after Titanic turned out to be less popular (of course!). Another step forward was his collaboration with Hollywood legend Martin Scorsese, which began in 2002 with the gangster film Gangs of New York.

At first, Scorsese himself did not really appreciate his idea of ​​a clash of gangs of “native” Americans and immigrants, he was going to sell it, but after DiCaprio became interested in it, he changed his mind. The film received 10 Oscar nominations, but not a single prize!

In their film Aviator, Leonardo plays a real person — Howard Hughes, a multimillionaire, pilot, engineer and film producer who suffered from a serious mental illness. It became noticeable that DiCaprio was interested in the roles of people with mental problems …

The film was extremely successful — it not only received 11 Oscar nominations, but also 5 awards. DiCaprio was finally nominated for an Oscar, but the prize was not given again. But he received a Golden Globe for Best Actor — this is also quite significant …

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Leonardo DiCaprio, grandson of an immigrant from Odesa (Ukraine) — Oscar winner
With Scorsese at the Cannes Festival

The fifth film by Scorsese and DiCaprio — The Wolf of Wall Street became a sensation, an actor plays a successful broker balancing in life and work on the brink of crime, who eventually became an FBI informant, served a sentence and became a business coach.

Later, DiCaprio had problems with the real prototype of the hero — his assistant Andrew Green filed a lawsuit because his former boss “is portrayed as a criminal, addict, corrupt and deprived of any morality”. But everything worked out well, because it was true.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Leonardo DiCaprio, grandson of an immigrant from Odesa (Ukraine) — Oscar winner
In the movie The Wolf of Wall Street





DiCaprio’s collaboration with one of the most amazing directors in Hollywood, Quentin Tarantino, was also significant. It started with Django Unchained, in which Leo plays the slave owner Calvin Candy — still a little creepy even for his characters.

The character he plays is a polished and sophisticated man, but at the same time full of such bestial cruelty, that another character kills him only in order not to shake his hand, while going to his own inevitable death. Everything in the style of DiCaprio — a show of something that is beyond the borders of norm.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Leonardo DiCaprio, grandson of an immigrant from Odesa (Ukraine) — Oscar winner
Django Unchained — What a bastard is he playing

The film collected 4 Oscar nominations and won 2 awards, but DiCaprio was not even nominated, content with the US Film Critics Association’s Best Supporting Actor prize. He earned a nomination in his next collaboration with Tarantino.

In the acclaimed film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, DiCaprio plays a retiring Hollywood actor, who is attacked by members of Charles Manson’s gang instead of Sharon Tate, who was actually killed by them. In the cinema, they do not gain success — but that’s what Hollywood is for!

The Oscar nomination for Best Actor was not a success here either, although the film, which received ten nominations, still earned two prizes. His team-mate Brad Pitt received his Oscar, but Leo again did not! Does this prize for DiCaprio have idiosyncrasy?




No, of course, he won the Oscar for Best Actor back in 2015 for the lead role of trapper Hugh Glass in Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu’s film The Revenant. Even members of the American Film Academy did not raise a hand not to award the actor for such a difficult role.

The main character, injured in a fight with a bear, is left to die by his cruel companion, who even kills his son. But he miraculously survives, overcomes the incredible difficulties of traveling through a snow-covered forest and eventually overtakes his destroyer. Everything is like in Hollywood …

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Leonardo DiCaprio, grandson of an immigrant from Odesa (Ukraine) — Oscar winner
In the movie The Revenant

The director turned out to be very principled — the snow could be painted on a computer, but DiCaprio had to work in the cold for many days. And when the hero, fleeing the cold, sleeps in the belly of a dead horse — it was filmed for real, without any tricks.

But, as it often happens, the prize earned by such a hard work almost slipped away from DiCaprio — its acceptance was noisily celebrated in the restaurant and it happened to be so, that he went home after dinner without the famous statuette. However, the fact of owning is more important than the prize itself …




DiCaprio is now known to filmmakers around the world. And not only to filmmakers — an incredible number of fans, who idolize him. One of the sites on the internet is called Totally DiCapitated, and there are tons of people there.

One of his hobbies is sailing on his own yacht. Once, it responded to a SOS when a passenger fell from a cruise ship. The chances of his salvation were slim, but DiCaprio was lucky — he found the person who was about to drown, and the shipwreck victim was even more fortunate. Not everyone can …

He is a tireless party-goer, but he clearly separates work and entertainment. His friends praise his generosity — he often gives them luxurious gifts, but there is no arrogance in this, he is just this type of person. James Cameron said that he can charm anyone without doing anything. It seems like the truth …

To these merits, he was also gifted with a unique sense of humor. During the difficult filming of Titanic, over and over again he made the entire crew laugh, including his co-star Kate Winslet with her traditional English seriousness.

But Leo’s personal life is still unsettled. He constantly dates different photo models, and his age is growing, but theirs stays the same. However, he even introduced his current sympathy, the Argentinean Camila Morrone, to his mother, despite the fact that he had previously avoided such introductions.

ROOTS AND WINGS with Boris Burda: Leonardo DiCaprio, grandson of an immigrant from Odesa (Ukraine) — Oscar winner
With Camila Morrone




Even during the filming of Titanic DiCaprio began to take an interest in environmental problems, and over time his interest only grew. In 2007, he released the documentary The Eleventh Hour and participated in the creation of the film Save the Planet in 2016. They are dedicated to climate change.

Back in 1998, he created the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, a charitable project that helps to protect the untouched corners of the planet and improve the relationship between nature and humanity in general. He donated $ 7,000,000 to save elephants, more than $ 5,000,000 to protect the diversity of the Amazon, and the total amount of his fund’s donations to the environment reaches $ 100 million.

As livestock farming has become a significant source of carbon dioxide emissions, he generously sponsors projects for the production of cultured meat. He also helps projects that produce vegan milk and chickpea foods.

And in his personal life, the actor tries to be as environmentally friendly as possible. He drives a hybrid car, has solar panels at his home, admits that he doesn’t walk to work and doesn’t have a pile of compost, but says he’s still trying to set a positive example.

And besides this, DiCaprio continues to act in films — he clearly has enough offers. So it looks like he got a little overreacted, calling the Titanic the biggest success of his life. However, it may just be coquetry — it is quite clear that no success has been ordered for him …


All illustrations from open sources

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