Leonardo DiCaprio is not the Wolf of Wall Street. Sure, he may party on yachts occasionally with beautiful women and be worth millions, but the 39-year-old actor says he really was acting while portraying his character Jordan Belfort's rampant drug use. In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, DiCaprio opened up about growing up "very poor," and why it helped him to resist the temptation of drugs in Hollywood.
"Never done it," DiCaprio said about drugs. "That's because I saw this stuff literally every day when I was 3 or 4 years old. So Hollywood was a walk in the park for me . . . I'd go to parties and it was there and, yeah, there's that temptation," he admitted.
"Hollywood is a very volatile place where artists come in and they essentially say they want to belong. It's incredibly vulnerable to be an actor and also get criticism at a young age when you're formulating who you are," DiCaprio explained. "We've seen a lot of people fall victim to that, and it's very unfortunate."
The actor's parents, George and Irmelin, divorced when he was was very young, and he lived mostly with his mother. Until the age of 9, DiCaprio lived in an L.A. neighborhood near Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue. He told the Los Angeles Times that there "used to be a major prostitution ring on my street corner, crime and violence everywhere."
DiCaprio eventually won a scholarship to University Elementary School, located in a wealthier neighborhood. "It was like this little Garden of Eden," he recalled. "And if I went to play with my friends, I would drive to Beverly Hills and go in their backyard and there'd be a waterfall there. I mean, a waterfall! In the backyard? What the . . ."
When he had to go back to the public school system, DiCaprio decided to try and become an actor to change his lifestyle.
"That was the motivational thing that happened to me in my life," he explained. "I was 15, and I said to my mom, 'I want to be an actor. Please take me to auditions.' Because I had to get out of that public school system."
In DiCaprio's opinion, his background makes him more than qualified to discuss the subject of income disparity in America as depicted in the Wolf of Wall Street. "Who am I to talk about this?" the Oscar-nominated actor asked. "It goes back to that neighborhood. It came from the fact that I grew up very poor and I got to see the other side of the spectrum."