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His name allegedly derives from his German mother Irmalin's having experienced a sudden kick from her unborn boy while enjoying a DaVinci painting at the Uffizi. In the year following his birth, she and his Italian father George were divorced. He grew up in Echo Park, then a particularly seedy, drug-dominated area of Los Angeles. At five he appeared on his favorite TV show, "Romper Room," and was nearly thrown off for misbehaving. After a string of commercials, educational films ("Mickey's Safety Club"), occasional parts in TV series, a debut film role as Josh in Critters 3 (1991), a continuing role as the homeless boy Luke in the TV series Growing Pains, he got his break-through part as Toby in This Boy's Life (1993), co-starring with Robert De Niro and Ellen Barkin. The part led the New York Film Critics and the National Society of Film Critics to name him runner-up for Best Supporting Actor. His first Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations came for the difficult role of Arnie in What's Eating Gilbert Grape (1993). Equally challenging parts were a drug-troubled Jim Carroll in Basketball Diaries, The (1995), the tormented homosexual poet Rimbaud in Total Eclipse (1995) and the male lead in a very updated Romeo + Juliet (1996). Superstardom came to DiCaprio playing Jack Dawson in Titanic (1997), highest grossing film ever, tied with Ben-Hur (1959) for most Academy Awards - though Leo himself was not nominated.