Leonardo Di Caprio knows nothing of nights spent at Oscars parties or sleeping in a horse, but he’s used to getting puzzled reactions to his name. After all, he shares it with one of the world’s most famous actors.
This 40-year-old Brazil-based furniture designer, who shows designs like his egg-shaped tables everywhere from Singapore to Milan, tried going by the nickname “Leo” to distance himself from the 42-year-old leading man. But that never quite worked.
“I don’t remember a single time I identified myself and people didn’t laugh,” he told TIME.
It all started in 1997 when the artist was 20, and Titanic turned the 22-year-old actor into the king of the world. Unfortunately, whenever Di Caprio tried to buy a movie ticket over the phone with his credit card — to see the heart-stealing wonder boy of the sea on the big screen —everyone just chuckled and hung up on him. From then on, his adult life has been full of unusual introductions.
“It’s interesting. It’s not saying your name. It’s an explanation,” he said.
Like other people with celebrity names, he mostly finds the association amusing. Sometimes businesses even roll out the royal treatment because of his famous namesake.
In fact in 1998, a flight attendant at a Vancouver airport welcomed him on board a plane before anyone else, even after he insisted he was not the rising star.
“The funny thing is that I was flying coach, and I don’t think the actor would do that then.”
He once showed up at a Los Angeles day spa for a treatment he booked by phone to find 30 photographers waiting outside.
The receptionist had one question for him: “Is he coming?” Disappointingly, “he” had already arrived.
Di Caprio admires the leading man’s movies, but overlapping with him does have its drawbacks. His like-named star gets a mention in the press? A thousand people instantly follow him on Instagram — and unfollow him just as quickly when they realize he’s not that Leo.
In the early 2000s when DiCaprio was dating supermodel Gisele Bündchen, the “where is Gisele?” questions became so common he found it frustrating.
Worst of all are the people who assume he’s named after the celebrity, which is not the case. Born on Nov. 6 on the feast of the Saint Leonard of Noblac, his parents named him after the Frankish religious figure. He got the “Di Caprio” from his father’s side, whose ancestry traces back to Trentola Ducenta, a small city in Naples, Italy.
Unlike his counterpart, he doesn’t make headlines simply for riding a bike, but they are similar in one way. They both love the artists Jean-Michel Basquiat, Takashi Murakami and Elizabeth Peyton. Di Caprio would even like to create artwork for him. “It would be an interesting connection.”
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