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Undeterred, Di Caprio continues to choose his projects slowly and carefully, always seeking to expand his range and present himself with new challenges."Working with people like Martin Scorsese and watching classic old films that are really pieces of art, I want to make sure that if I'm going to invest my time and energy into something and give myself wholeheartedly to it, I want it to be something that lasts," he says thoughtfully. For me, the three elements that have to be there are: it has to be a great script, with a great director and great people to work with."For now he is happy to accumulate the millions of dollars that flood his way, living, if not frugally, at least not in the accustomed style of Hollywood stars.
He owns one car, a Toyota Prius, and does not fly around in private jets.
Mann brought scriptwriter John Logan to the project and after much discussion they decided to concentrate on Hughes's life between 19, when he was a pioneering filmmaker and aviator.
Warren Beatty and others have toyed for years with the idea of a film about Hughes, but none came off the drawing board.
Rejected by a casting agent when he was 11, he tried again at 14 and landed an agent, who got him a toy commercial.
Supporting roles in television series followed, but his first film role in Critters 3 gave little hint of his potential.
There he was, in a South American rainforest, studying the effects of mercury poisoning in the Amazon, when he was confronted by a group of naked Indians.
Although he has just turned 30, the boyishly handsome actor is resigned to the fact that he will always be linked to Titanic, the 1997 Oscar-winning film in which he and Kate Winslet played tragic lovers on the doomed ship."That film is a phenomenon," he says.
"That's my ultimate goal and you can hold me to that 30 or 20 years from now."I'm able to say at some point, 'OK, you're being ridiculous, stop stepping on every gum stain you see. You don't need to walk 20 feet back and put your foot on that thing.Nothing bad is going to happen.'"I can talk myself through it, you know, whereas Howard Hughes couldn't do that and people with hard-core OCD can't."During filming I let it all go and I never listened to the other voice, so I remember my make-up artist and assistant walking me to the set and going, 'Oh, God, here he goes again.Robert De Niro, however, spotted it and chose him for This Boy's Life and he was on the way. , won him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination and he used his new-found recognition to take on a variety of roles, as a young gunslinger in The Quick and the Dead, a heroin-addicted youth in The Basketball Diaries, Arthur Rimbaud in Total Eclipse and Romeo in Baz Luhrmann's version of Romeo Juliet. But in the seven years since then he has made only four films, none of which was hugely successful.The first two, The Beach and The Man in the Iron Mask, were panned by the critics and the second two, Gangs of New York and Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can, did not make the impression expected of them.
His public exploits notwithstanding, Hughes was a man who valued his privacy.