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For Di Caprio, a thoughtful, introspective man, being the focus of attention whenever he ventures out is particularly irksome, although he accepts that there is little he can do about it."The paparazzi are horrible people for most of us and I wish they wouldn't follow me around and make my life miserable, but when I start talking about how we should fight them and how they are destroying everything, I feel such a shallow jerk because there are so many more important things in the world that people should be focusing on, not whether some rich celebrity is being photographed by paparazzi," he says.
The attention and fan fever are likely to heighten with the release of The Aviator, Martin Scorsese's epic film about Howard Hughes.
"I think the reason no film has been done is because everyone has tried to focus on the older Howard Hughes, but it's not very cinematic because no matter how interesting he is, it's a man stuck in a hotel room for 15 years of his life with tissue boxes for shoes, talking on telephones," says Di Caprio.
Michael Mann was exhausted and needed a break from directing, having just finished filming Ali, so Di Caprio took the idea to Martin Scorsese, with whom he had worked on Gangs of New York.
Instead, he is saving for a future in which he will be able to make a real contribution to the welfare of the world."I want to accumulate enough money to say to myself, 'OK, now I'm going to do something really great and beneficial for other people or the environment or children," he says earnestly.
"That's my ultimate goal and you can hold me to that 30 or 20 years from now.
"Despite his ambition, he had a strong need for solitude and I can definitely empathise with that."It is apparent to everyone but Di Caprio that there are other common denominators linking him and Hughes, apart from their love of privacy.
Both had a taste for beautiful women – Hughes had affairs with Jean Peters, Katharine Hepburn, Ava Gardner and countless starlets while Di Caprio has romanced a slew of supermodels such as Kate Moss, Helena Christensen, Eva Herzigova and Amber Valetta, and he is currently involved with Gisele Bundchen. Another trait Di Caprio shares with Hughes is a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder.
Leonardo Di Caprio, who plays him in the Oscar-tipped The Aviator, tells John Hiscock how his own milder form of the disorder gave him an insight into the role For Leonardo Di Caprio, it was one of those moments when he didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
Mann brought scriptwriter John Logan to the project and after much discussion they decided to concentrate on Hughes's life between 19, when he was a pioneering filmmaker and aviator.
Warren Beatty and others have toyed for years with the idea of a film about Hughes, but none came off the drawing board.
His public exploits notwithstanding, Hughes was a man who valued his privacy.
"He was the last private man in America," says Di Caprio.