The lure of a huge paycheck didn't change his decision to take a year off from acting, even as Titanic plowed into the record books (worldwide box office exceeds $1 billion) and roles in The Man in the Iron Mask and Celebrity kept his face on movie screens and the bedroom walls of countless teens. "He hasn't worked, because that's what his heart is telling him," says Titanic producer Jon Landau. "He goes out and does what he wants to do for himself." And others. When he wasn't exhausting us with his capacity to party ("I won't ever be a weird recluse," he assured Teen magazine), he impressed us with quiet good deeds, visiting paralyzed Chinese gymnast Sang Lan, attending a Make-A-Wish Foundation lunch for ill teens and donating $35,000 to a public library going up in his old Los Feliz, Calif., neighborhood.
But don't expect to see him exploring his soft side onscreen anytime soon. After nearly signing to play a yuppie serial killer in American Psycho, he opted instead for the role of a drug-taking homicidal backpacker in Trainspotting director Danny Boyle's The Beach. Will the grisly role tarnish his star? Just the opposite. Says Baz Luhrmann, who directed him in William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet: "Leonardo DiCaprio has other talents as an actor. If he can get through the shock wave of being this popular and can get back to his acting, what we'll see from him is an enormous capacity and an enormous range."