05/12/1997 at 01:00 AM EDT
WHEREFORE ALL THE FUSS ABOUT LEONARDO DICAPRIO
? For one thing, even wearing a luau shirt, the 22-year-old actor managed to storm through last year's update of William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet
with as much smoldering passion as any of his predecessors in tights. "Leo has an incredible hold over women," says producer Jon Landau, who made good use of it in this summer's epic Titanic
, in which the Los Angeles native plays a love-struck passenger. "On the set he has this presence that just attracts female attention." The 6' DiCaprio, who set hearts fluttering as the gentle, retarded teen of What's Eating Gilbert Grape
(which earned him a supporting actor Oscar nomination) and has reportedly been dating the same nonindustry girlfriend for a year now, seems taken aback by the reaction. "Suddenly all these teenage girls have become hysterical," he told London's Daily Telegraph
in April. "What they do is shocking, climbing over walls and stuff," Producer and casting director Risa Bramon Garcia isn't surprised. "He's a great-looking kid, with deep-set eyes, great lips and great bones," she says. "But there's a lot going on behind his eyes—very tortured on one hand, with a lot of warmth and humor and sexuality on the other." And his appeal seems universal. "In Mexico," relates Landau, "I showed a reel to a government official and his two daughters, 18 and 21. When Leo came onscreen, the two just went, 'Ahhh!' "