I was on Facebook recently when Boulder City resident Samantha Foster shared a video showing 2016 Academy Award winning actor Leonard DiCaprio cruising through our town. The 1995 Japanese commercial, which can be found on YouTube.com, has DiCaprio toting a Honda Civic as he and co-star Yasuko Matsuyuki briefly explore Boulder City and the surrounding desert.
Born in California, DiCaprio is half-Russian and half-Italian. The actor’s grandmother, Helene Indenbirken, was born in Germany on her way to the United States, much like my own mother, who is Ukrainian but was born in Germany en route to the U.S.
DiCaprio’s father, who created underground comic books, wasn’t in his life. His mother, Irmelin, was a single parent. She named him after looking at a Leonardo da Vinci painting and feeling her baby kick for the first time. Raised partially in Germany after living with his grandmother for a while, DiCaprio developed a taste for Hollywood after he and his mother moved to the Los Feliz area of California.
DiCaprio was a child actor. Starting off in commercials, the actor went on to gain small television roles. Determined to make a better life for himself and his family, he dropped out of high school and began taking acting as a serious career choice.
After smaller movie roles, he broke through to international stardom with the lead role as Jack Dawson for the 1997 movie “Titanic.” From there, DiCaprio’s success couldn’t be stopped. He teamed up with Martin Scorsese for “Gangs of New York” and even went on to play former Boulder City resident Howard Hughes in “The Aviator.”
His roles are diverse and have led to over 54 award wins. One of his most creative and recent roles was in 2011 for Clint Eastwood’s “J. Edgar,” which examined the private life of the former FBI director as a closet homosexual.
One of DiCaprio’s most provocative roles was one that hit close to home for him. His role as Jordan Belfort in “The Wolf of Wall Street” depicted the true story of the stockbroker, who pleaded guilty to charges related to money laundering, something the actor was also accused of in 2016. According to an article in the The Hollywood Reporter, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation was the equivalent of the Human Fund of “Seinfeld” character George Costanza.
A 136-page complaint alleging money laundering by the U.S. Department of Justice was filed in a Los Angeles court. The complaint was investigating former Prime Minister of Malaysia Low Taek Jho and his ties to a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund and various nonprofits, such as DiCaprio’s. The fundraising parties and events were accused of being an outlet for the rich and famous to party like the rich and famous while not having to itemize expenses, administrative fees, monies raised and the spending of the funds.
In January, DiCaprio had to testify about his role in the international money laundering scheme. According to The Washington Post, the actor ended up being a witness for the prosecution.
The prosecution also alleged that Prakazrel Michel, a former acquaintance who runs in the same social circle as DiCaprio, was setting up accounts to make payments to allegedly urge President Donald Trump and his administration to drop the case against Jho. Michel apparently used Elliot Brody, a Republican fundraiser who gained whale donors for Trump’s former presidential campaign, as a point of contact in allegedly trying to pay to make the investigation go away.
And while this scandal has no ties to Boulder City, it starts with Jho letting DiCaprio gamble on his tab at The Venetian in Las Vegas. Shortly thereafter, Jho helped produce the funds for “The Wolf of Wall Street” and is even specially thanked in the credits of the film. The assets from the film were recently seized.
DiCaprio made something of himself, and with that success came money and fame. The bigger the bankbook, usually the bigger the problems. Nothing to date has come of the Department of Justice’s investigation.
DiCaprio’s next big movie comes out July 26. It’s titled “Once Upon A Time … in Hollywood,” and the director is Quentin Tarantino. The plot takes place in 1969 and has to do with an actor and his stuntman making a comeback in the movie business.
I’m not sure if DiCaprio will ever make it back through Boulder City again, but it’s good to see him and our city in the Japanese commercial.
As far as my Throwback Thursday movie recommendation, I have two starring DiCaprio. Of course “The Wolf of Wall Street” is one, but also my favorite Johnny Depp movie of all time, which gave DiCaprio his first Oscar nomination, “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.”
Tanya Vece’s weekly Hollywood blog can be found at TanyaVeceBook.com. Tanya is the author of “The Meaning of Eclipse” and operates as an independent marketer.