The Actor who Minds his Own Business

Fresh from winning his Oscar, Leonardo DiCaprio is one of the world’s most famous actors today. But did you know he is also a businessman and an environmental activist?

We all know Leonardo DiCaprio. We remember him as the teenage heartthrob of Titanic, the charming serial imposter from Catch Me If You Can, the obnoxious villain in Django Unchained, and more. And who has not heard that he finally won his much-awaited Oscar?

What many do not know, however, is that DiCaprio is also a businessman. In 2004, he founded Appian Way Productions, which went on to produce many of his films – such as The Aviator, Shutter Island, The Wolf of Wall Street and this year’s Oscar-winning Revenant – all of which grossed at least US$100 million each. The company also produced other blockbusters, including George Clooney’s Ides of March, Christian Bale’s Out of the Furnace and Amanda Seyfried’s Red Riding Hood.

The business of an actor

The 41-year-old actor is also a branding expert. He is extremely cautious about the image he portrays.

“DiCaprio has a reputation as one of the most selective actors in the industry, and he doesn’t so much audition for a role as grill a director like a recruit at a job interview,” USA Today reported.

He turned down big-money offers including the lead role in Spider-Man, Robin in Batman & Robin, as well as Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars – all because the said movies and characters did not carry the emotional grip and depth he prefers.

Even in the early days of his career, way before he found fame, DiCaprio always knew what he wanted. When one of his agents suggested that he adopt the stage name “Lenny Williams”, thinking his original name was a mouthful to say, the actor, whose father is Italian, refused.

His gamble paid off. Today, in a market crowded with actors and movies from around the world, DiCaprio’s name has become an instantly recognisable brand, associated with the actor’s talent and glamour.

Having established his own reputation, he went further, sending his own scripts to selected individuals. “I target most of the directors I work with,” he explained.

Outside of Hollywood, DiCaprio is also a property mogul who rents out the string of houses he owns, including a US$1.6 million Malibu mansion from which he earns US$50,000 a month.

Today he is worth US$245 million, with an income of US$29 million in 2015.

Climate champion

The world’s top firms invest in corporate social responsibility, which includes supporting social causes and giving to charity. DiCaprio does the same.

We now know he is a climate champion, after he recently made headlines for his Oscar acceptance speech. Instead of reveling in his moment of glory after a 25-year wait, DiCaprio turned the watching world’s attention to what he felt was a worthier cause: “Let us not take this planet for granted. I do not take tonight for granted.”

He is a passionate advocate for environmental protection, which he combines with his passion for movies. He has made several films to educate the public about environmental issues, most notably the documentary The 11th Hour, which he wrote, produced and narrated in 2007.

In 1998, he started the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation for protection of the environment. To date, it supports 65 partners in 40 countries and has given out US$45 million in grants. Its most recent annual charity gala raised US$40 million, auctioning items such as a private Elton John concert, a 61 Chevy Roadster car and an Arctic Expedition with Prince Albert of Monaco.

On top of giving millions in donations annually, DiCaprio practices what he preaches too. He buys only environmentally friendly cars, and all of his many houses are eco-friendly; and so is his private island, Blackadore Caye in Belize. He is reportedly turning it into an eco-friendly resort (another business venture) through his company Restorative Islands.

DiCaprio’s commitment to climate protection has made him a United Nations Messenger of Peace. He is also a board member of the World Wildlife Fund, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the International Fund for Animal Welfare. In daily life, he is the proud owner of pet dogs, frogs and a lizard (which he carried around on the set of Titanic).

As DiCaprio has shown, one does not actually have to start a business to be an entrepreneur. Our enterprising spirit can also shine through in our career choices and the passions we pursue. Whatever paths you may take, with determination, foresight, hard work and the courage to take risks, you can become an entrepreneur in your own right.


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