While many actors had to move to Los Angeles in order to break into the industry, DiCaprio never did. He was born and raised in LA, which meant Hollywood was right in his backyard.
Unfortunately, DiCaprio grew up in a very rough neighborhood of LA, due to his parents’ lack of money. However, DiCaprio assures that his unusual upbringing is what made it possible for him to become an actor.
Leonardo DiCaprio’s parents moved to LA before he was born
DiCaprio discussed his early life during a 2014 interview with the SAG-AFTRA Foundation.
“My parents both came from New York and they had this postcard image of utopian Los Angeles in Hollywood, and then we kind of moved into the mecca of prostitution and drug addicts,” DiCaprio continued. “So that’s where I grew up, and then, later on, moved to Silver Lake and Los Feliz for a long period of time after that. … I’m from LA, born and raised here. …”
Leonardo DiCaprio was robbed at 5 years old in his neighborhood
In a separate interview with CBS Sunday Morning, DiCaprio revealed that he was robbed in his neighborhood when was only five years old.
“I got sort of robbed at five years old, or something like that,” DiCaprio added. “It was a pretty hardcore neighborhood and I think that gave me a lot of motivation to sort of be successful.”
His mother made sure the environment didn’t damage him
Even though DiCaprio grew up in a rough neighborhood, his mother never allowed it to consume him. She made sure he went to a great school, even though it was an hour away from his home.
“I don’t want to do the whole stupid rags-to-riches-story deal, but for the first 10 years, my playground was like a junkyard with crack addicts around the corner,” DiCaprio told Rolling Stone. “I’d walk down the street and there’d be a guy opening his coat with, like, needles and heroin. And the corner was a whorehouse. And there was a lot of violence around, too. Nothing ever happened to me. And it’s good that I got to see that. And at the same time, she took me away every day to go to school with, well, essentially a bunch of rich kids [laughs].
Growing up in LA gave helped him become an actor
In hindsight, DiCaprio believes it was his tough upbringing and loving parents that paved the way for his career in acting.
“I always felt like this weird outsider. And I think that if it weren’t for the fact that I had a mother that really took the time to listen to a kid that said, you know ‘I wanna do this for a living, this is what I know I want to do, this is my passion’—10, 11-year-old kid—if it hadn’t been for her taking me to auditions in the sheer proximity of being—going to a school that accepted me in Beverly Hills, and then being able to drive to valley, or drive to Hollywood on the way back from school, I probably wouldn’t be doing this for a living.”
Clearly, the robbery didn’t have a lasting impact on DiCaprio’s life.