TV HIT Star Collection Special - 1998, issue 8

Straight talking!

We catch up Leonardo with the questions you want answered!



Do you think youīve changed as a person since you became successful?

Oh, yeah, I know Iīve changed. You canīt help it. Your mind starts working in a different way. You feel watched and scrutinized by people. For instance, if I lit up a cigarette, youīd immediately report it in your magazine! To tell you the truth, I donīt think much about what people think of me, but I know they look at me and form their opinion. I donīt want to constantly create an image of myself. I know how people respond to me and what I have to do so theyīll like me. I guess everybody does, but when youīre famous, itīs still different. I try to avoid phoney attitudes, I hate that. Whenever I notice myself doing something just to please somebody else, I stop it.

Has the pressure increased lately, or have you always felt like this about fame?

The pressureīs much more intensive, no question! Itīs not so much the pressure to be a good actor as the struggle to stay sane and not believe your own press. If you ever hear a rumour about me, check back with me. Chances are, itīs completely fabricated and I havenīt heard of it! But at the end of the day, I know Iīve had a lot more fun being famous than I wouldīve had otherwise, what with the attention Iīm getting and having people I respect admire me - thatīs not bad for a kid from East Hollywood!

Has fame made you more inhibited, or wilder and more outgoing?

Iīve always been wild. Iīve always been spontanous and outgoing. Iīve got some life experience because I tried things out, so Iīve got a lot of material to work with for acting. I use it, but I also maintain the spontaneity I want to present all the time.

Do you sometimes fell you have to adjust your lifestyle to match the image everyone seems to have of you?

No, I feel like Iīm two completely different people. The Leo we see on screen is like an alter-ego I have fun playing - but I wouldnīt want to take him home with me. I can see and listen to him, but I donīt feel part of him. I think a lot of young actors have difficulties with their screen persona because they feel obliged to live up to their image. Famous people are no different from anybody else - thatīs why we can play ordinary people convincingly in films.

Does all the fan attention bother you at all?

No, because the people who think they know me are, for me, pure strangers. But when girls touch me, they become completely hysterical. Sometimes what they do is completely shocking. Theyīll jump over walls to follow me and nothing seems to hold them back. Some girls seem to be ready to do ANYTHING to talk to me or touch me - or even go near me. Itīs crazy!

Does it sometimes feel like the world is waitig for you to fall?

Of course. Scandal sells. They made up stuff about me, going into clubs, wrecking myself silly, sleeping around. Well, I have female friends, but theyīre just my friends. Canīt I have friends? You know, itīs so much more interesting to read about an actor who does drugs on the corner than read about one who goes to work for 15 hours a day. Thatīs the way it goes.

Your fans seemed more disappointed than you were about being overlooked in the Oscars. How did you really feel?

I have a funny feeling about the Oscars. When I was nominated for Whatīs Eating Gilbert Grape? I really didnīt want to win. I thought that would create such an expectation about me in peopleīs minds. You know if youīre not perfect in every film after that then people say, "See, he was just lucky in that one role." Just īcos youīve done a good performance once, doesnīt mean youīre always going to be good. Thatīs why some of the greatest actors in the world have gone a little bit nuts. Theyīre saying to themselves, "What happened? You used to loved me." Itīs an easy trap to fall into.

What exactly will you be doing with your year off?

Looking at lions, elephants and zebras in the wild - thatīs one of the things Iīm going to do. I have always wanted to travel, preferably to see animals which might be on the verge of extinction. If I donīt start soon, then I fear I never will. Animals have always been a big passion for me and I remember wanting at one stage to be a travel agent so I could get out in the world. Iīve had pet dogs, frogs and - donīt laugh - even a lizard.

And you want a big rest from making movies?

My problem is that Iīve not had a chance to live life. I started films at 16 and have gone from one to another. Iīve had to put aside all my other interests. Iīve not had a chance to build up proper interests. Iīve been living through films now for so long, itīs great not to have a part to work on for once. I need to put some energy and thoughts and experiences in my life. There are a lot of great advantages with this job, but some things that are not so good.

Presumably being recognised all the time can be a real pain.

Anonymity is something to be cherished. I enjoy being in places where Iīm not recognized. If I have to go to the wilds of Africa to do that, then so be it.

Do you still think youīll ever settle down with just one girl?

I might be in love, but Iīd still look at other girls. I enjoy their presence. I know the first names of all the pretty girls in the clubs I go to, so itīs out of the question that I should commit the only one girl. Love has always played a big part in my life, but Iīm still very young and I want to meet as many girls as possible. Letīs just say Iīm going through an experimental phase at the moment.