Leonardo DiCaprio has a passion for the environment that extends at least as far back as the Titanic days of his early twenties.
It s always been something that I ve read about,” he explains. “It started with an environmental documentary that I saw when I was very young, on rainforests and the depletion of the Amazon and loss of species. I decided to become more active and outspoken about these issues because ultimately nature has very little rights.
“That eventually led me to meet with then US vice president Al Gore about 10 years ago. He took time to talk to me about the issue of global warming which I didn t really understand very much about. From then on I’ve kind of been much more active in it.”
Acting quickly, DiCaprio set up his eco website www.LeonardoDiCaprio.org in 1998, raising awareness among a new generation who had followed his success with films like What s Eating Gilbert Grape, Romeo + Juliet and Titanic.
Over the years, DiCaprio has been practising what he preaches. A man with global concerns and the son of a German mother and a half German, half Italian father, he sits on the boards of the Natural Resources Defense Council and Global Green USA.
In 2005 he bought the 41.6ha Blackadore Caye, an idyllic island off the coast of Belize, which he plans to develop into an environmentally friendly, albeit luxury resort with renewable energy resources. He fell in love with Belize on a 2004 trip to the Caribbean with his then girlfriend, Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen.
A self confessed beach lover, DiCaprio fell foul of environmentalists whilst filming The Beach in Thailand in 1999. Locals complained that the film production damaged the area, so the actor stepped in to aid its restoration and conservation.
At home, DiCaprio enforces his own measures. Topping the list of green celebrity campaigners, according to environmental website Grist, DiCaprio rates above hybrid driving Cameron Diaz, Cate Blanchett, with her solar powered home, and Brad Pitt, a lover of eco friendly buildings.
“My house is built green. I have solar panels on my house,” reveals DiCaprio. “I ve been driving a hybrid car, my Toyota Prius, for six years now. It reduces emissions by 75?per cent and gets up to 52 miles per gallon 22km a litre in the city. I liked mine so much that I bought three more of the hybrids for my mum, dad and stepmum.
“But there s still room for improvement. I don t walk to work and I don t have a compost pile at my house. But I try to live by example.
“Every time you buy something, you re advocating the way that company does business and by buying a hybrid car or buying something organic or green, you re essentially making them create more for a marketplace out there and that will eventually grow.
“I don t think the environmental movement is about telling people how to live .?.?. because not everyone can put solar panels on their house. It s just not a reality. But it is about just being aware of these global forces out there and being aware in the next election. Asking the right questions about what the next candidate s environmental policy is.
“Of course personal action is very important, but until the powers that be truly infuse this into our daily way of living, I don t think anything s really going to change on a massive level.”
On that note, he says he s still on the fence in deciding whom to vote for in the US s all important elections next year, waiting to hear exactly what environmental promises the candidates will make.
He hopes The 11th Hour will be a call to action for other voters too. And he has a dream of further combining his two loves, movies and the environment, with a green themed movie, in the same way his last film Blood Diamond, while being entertaining, also raised awareness about the horrors of diamond mining in war zones.
His next movie, for now, is an eagerly awaited second venture with Winslet.
“I just finished Revolutionary Road with Kate Winslet and directed by Sam Mendes and we shot that in New York and Connecticut,” he reveals. The two Titanic stars play stuck in a rut 1950s parents looking for a better life.
As for DiCaprio, although he s heavily concerned with securing a safe future for the next generation, he s still without children himself. He s been dating Israeli model Bar Refaeli, 22, for almost two years.
But he s certainly committed to bettering the lives of the planet s children with his work, including The 11th Hour, giving the pro environment cause a better image.
“I ve devoted a lot of time to getting the message out there. Hopefully with the amount of people that have seen past works of mine, a younger generation will possibly go to see this movie because I m in it. Ultimately I m going to continue to be an actor and hopefully do more projects like this that will garner a bigger audience,” he says.
“There was a certain stigma with what an environmentalist was years ago this tree hugging, granola eating hippie that goes around and flashes the peace sign all the time and that s a negative connotation in some ways because not all of us can live that lifestyle.”
Like The 11th Hour, he ends on a positive note.
“It s a strange world we live in and I think we re all realising that. I don t think it takes an expert and I m not an expert on this issue by any means to realise that our weather patterns are changing, serious things are happening around our planet that just don t seem normal.
“And to me the whole purpose of making this movie was to make those connections and ask people, the overwhelming majority of the impartial scientific community, what s going on? To really get some answers.
“Human beings have had a devastating impact on our planet and this sort of modern globalised world we live in that has so many different possibilities, it s just a real shame that we haven t implemented a lot of the technologies that are out there.
“We could reduce our footprint on this planet by 90 per cent with technologies that are already there and available. We don t have to invent anything new. It s all there.”
? The 11th Hour opens on October 11.