Being the Blue Sky Billionaire
December 7, 2004

Leo DiCaprio has the same kind of larger-than-life mystique as the American legend he plays in "The Aviator," and when our Jerry Penacoli sat down with the Hollywood heartthrob, it was clear Leo has even grown to look a little like Howard Hughes off screen, too.

"Yeah, he's rubbed off on me with the hair, I guess," Leo admitted to Jerry, but insisted that’s where the resemblance ends. "That's it. I could not lead that man's life."

But, like the late, great aircraft tycoon, movie producer and billionaire recluse, the 30-year-old superstar has lived most of his life in the glare of fame. So what keeps Leo grounded? "I’ve always kind of made sure to maintain the sense of who I am and never be mean or cruel or snotty to anyone," Leo revealed. "Because, at the end of the day, it's not going to help you last in the business, and who wants to be around someone like that? I don't want to turn into ‘that guy.’ That guy!"

The usually retiring and publicity-shy star gave us a rare glimpse of the man behind the screen persona, when we asked him if he shared Hughes’ quality of trying to keep his privacy private. "For me, I’m a pretty sociable guy," Leo said. "And for me, it's just not constantly wanting to see my image out there."

As for how his dealings with paparazzi may have soured him on celebrity and fame, Leo had some words of advice for his fellow celebs: "It really isn't that big of a deal. Every time I hear actors or people in the business complain about it, I just go, ‘get over it.’ We're lucky, lucky people."

Leo also confirmed a curious piece of Hollywood trivia -- he almost became famous under a different moniker, after an agent suggested that the then 9-year-old Leo change his name to "Lenny Williams." "Supposedly to make my name a little less ethnic, I guess," Leo said. "But that was one thing I said, ‘I’m sticking to my guns on this one.’"

And just think, if he hadn't, it could well be one "Lenny Williams" now being touted as a possible Oscar winner for "The Aviator."

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