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Leonardo DiCaprio Details His Multiple Brushes With Death: “You See Your Whole Life Flash in Front of Your Eyes”

Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio

Sharks and planes and skydives, oh my! Leonardo DiCaprio revealed in his new Wired cover story that he’s nearly died multiple times.

The Oscar hopeful, 41, recalled his now-notorious encounter with great white sharks, which nearly claimed his life. “If a cat has nine lives, I think I’ve used a few. I mean, there was the shark incident,” DiCaprio told the tech mag in its January 2016 issue. “A great white jumped into my cage when I was diving in South Africa. Half its body was in the cage, and it was snapping at me.”

DiCaprio explained that the shark had leaped up to grab tuna and landed inside his cage — the tops are left open — when it came down. “I sort of fell down to the bottom and tried to lie flat,” he recalled of the harrowing encounter. “The great white took about five or six snaps an arm’s length away from my head. The guys there said that has never happened in the 30 years they’d been doing it.”

There was also that time he survived an engine explosion while aboard a plane. “Then there was this Delta Airlines flight to Russia,” the Great Gatsby hunk recalled. “I was in business class, and an engine blew up in front of my eyes. It was right after ‘Sully’ Sullenberger landed in the Hudson.” (Sullenberger is an airline captain who made headlines after safely landing a packed aircraft in NYC’s Hudson River back in 2009. A film adaptation of the aviation expert’s book is currently in the works.) “I was sitting there looking out at the wing, and the entire wing exploded in a fireball.”

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“I was the only one looking out at the moment this giant turbine exploded like a comet. It was crazy,” he recalled. “They shut all the engines off for a couple of minutes, so you’re just sitting there gliding with absolutely no sound, and nobody in the plane was saying anything. It was a surreal experience. They started the engines back up, and we did an emergency landing at JFK.”

Leonardo DiCaprio

That wasn’t the only gravity-related brush with death. “The other one was the skydiving incident,” DiCaprio dished. “It was a tandem dive. We pulled the first chute. That was knotted up. The gentleman I was with cut it free. We did another free fall for like another 5, 10 seconds. I didn’t even think about the extra chute, so I thought we were just plummeting to our death. He pulled the second, and that was knotted up too. He just kept shaking it and shaking it in midair, as all my friends were, you know, what felt like half a mile above me, and I’m plummeting toward earth. [Laughs.] And he finally unravels it in midair.”

Most horrifying was the impending broken limbs that DiCaprio knew he would experience. “The fun part was when he said, ‘You’re probably going to break your legs on the way down, because we’re going too fast now,'” the Titanic star shared. “So after you see your whole life flash in front of your eyes — twice — he says, ‘Oh, your legs are going to get broken too.’” (Luckily, DiCaprio walked away without any injuries.)

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Despite his numerous near-fatal encounters and his illustrious film career, DiCaprio said his most recent endeavor was his hardest movie yet. The Revenant actor portrays real-life, 19th-century fur trapper Hugh Glass, who was mauled by a bear.

“Every single day of this movie was difficult,” the Wolf of Wall Street actor recalled. “It was the most difficult film I’ve ever done. You’ll see, when you see the film — the endurance that we all had to have is very much up on the screen.”

The January 2016 issue of Wired hits newsstands on December 22. 

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