Live Kicking magazine
Thereīs one fella whoīs really making major tidal waves as a superb acting talent. And heīs only 21. His name is ....
Leonardoīs a pretty unusual name, isnīt it?
How I got my name is a cute little story. I donīt know if itīstrue or not, though my father says it is. While my moter was pregnant with me - my parents were in Italy on their honeymoon, I guess - they were looking at something by Leonardo da Vinci in an art gallery when my mother felt a strong kick from me. So my dad said, "We should take that as a sign and name him Leonardo !"
Your mumīs from Germany, isnīt she?
(Laughs) Yeah. Thatīs what gives me the blond hair and small facial features. My dadīs family is Italian and he really looks it. He keeps saying that one day Iīll have a real manly nose. He means bigger! So Iīm half Italian, too.
Does that mean that you can speak fluent German and Italian then?
Well, Iīve been to Germany to visit my grandparents a few times. I wouldnīn say Iīm fluent at German, but Iīm pretty damn good. I can get around and buy an ice-cream cone or order a coffee. As for Italian, well, no, I donīt speak it - but we definitely cook Italian in our family. Pastaīs actually my favourite food.
Are you a close family?
Oh, totally. My mom and my dad have been divorced for a long time, but - thank God - both of them have been able to be around me all the time. Theyīve always let me do what I want. And I think their decision was to make me discover stuff on my own, but tell me whatīs right from wrong. I definitely think my dad taught me how to be a kind human being.
So, letīs get down to business... Are you going out with anyone?
No, I donīt have a girlfriend right now. Iīm not the most sociable person in the world - I like to hang out with people Iīve known for the years. Now that, all of a sudden, more people are trying to become my friends, I have to be careful when choosing those to be around. I like to play pool and basketball a lot. Iīm basically a regular guy who likes to hang out with his friends.
Are your friends all actors?
No. I have a group of about 20 good friends and five or six solid good friends. I love annoying my friends more than anything! When theyīre all sitting around watching TV and not wanting to do anything, I sort of get up, jump around and annoy them. If you ask any of my friends, theyīll just love telling you how annoying I am sometimes.
Youīre often compared to River Phoenix. Did you ever get the chance to meet him?
No. Itīs terrible what happened to him. Such a loss - not just to the business, but also cos Iīve heard he was a great person to be around. I would have loved to have met him cos I think he was one of the most talented people in my age group.
So we can take it that youīre not a part of the hip Hollywood scene?
I think sometimes kids who are in the business tend to confuse acting with their personal lives. A lot of the time, they mix the two and make themselves actors off-screen as well. Thatīs probably where River ran into trouble. Iīm not going to lie to you - Iīve been to a couple of those clubs, too. But I completely stay away from that whole drug attitude.
We know you donīt like being seen as a hunk, but youīve sure got stacks of fans ...
I think fans are one of the most important things an actor - or anyone making films - can have. Theyīre the ones who support you and keep you going. Theyīre the ones who buy the cinema tickets cos they want to see your work and expect good things of you.
Whatīs your fan mail situation like?
I donīt get much fan mail any more cos I lost my teen audience when I left Growing Pains. I still appear in some American teen magazines - but they use the pictures they look of me when I was 12 years old! Itīs so embarrassing!. Back on the subject of fan mail, I think I once got sent a bra. That was the weirdest thing, sine it actually came from a guy!
Did any of your movie workmates - fellas like Robert De Niro and Johnny Depp - give you any advice about acting and dealing with the pressures of fame?
I learned some stuff from them, but it wasnīt something anyone taught me. I sort of knew it anyway. I obviously enjoy the attention - any actor would - but Iīm not going to ride this moment of glory and sqeeze it to its last drop. I know thereīs going to come a time when Iīm not so hot - no actor is hot for their whole career - so I donīt take fame too seriously. Iīm not focussing on that. I just wait for good jobs to come along and then take them.
Like The Basketball Diaries, Total Eclipse, This Boyīs Life and Whatīs Eating Gilbert Grape, in which you spent a couple of scenes hanging from the top of a pylon...
Thereīs nothing Iīm afraid of! Iīm joking. I imagine that skydiving or somthing like that would freak me out. In Gilbert Grape, I had a big cable strapped around my waist - these reinforced steel ropes - so I wasnīt afraid at all. There was no way I was going to fall!
With all your success so far, how come you donīt have a swish bachelor pad but still live with your mum instead?
Iīm sure Iīll get my own place eventually. I figure that if Iīm going off to do movies and be out of town, why have an empty house sitting there all alone? Iīm no mommyīs boy- donīt get me wrong - but I wonīt move out until I have a long break from work. If I get enough guts to do it, maybe Iīll move to New York. Itīs a big step for a little boy like me!
When and how did you first learn about sex?
I never had the typical speech about īthe birds and the beesī with my dad. Iīve always been a smart boy and I learn things quickly. Letīs just say, I guess I was smarter than most when I started thinking about sex.
How would you describe yourself?
Hmm. (Thinks) Iīm a verbal person rather than somebody who will sit down and read, more external than internal. Iīm also pretty independent - like, my parents do have a say in my career, but I make the decisions. No one can say to me, "You should do this film with such and such a big name for this amount of money." If I see actors and directors I want to work with, Iīll do it. It could be a small film or a small part - it doesnīt need to be a big epic film every time. That really doesnīt matter at all.