The Real Reason Leonardo DiCaprio Was Told To Change His Name

You've heard of Lenny Williams, right? He's an Oscar-winning actor with the good looks and money to boot. Not ringing a bell? He starred in one of the highest-grossing films of all time before he was 30 and has given a string of career-best performances including in "The Departed." Still, nothing?

How about Leonardo DiCaprio then? The actor has been through many transitional phases during his career from teenage heartthrob to leading man to character actor. He once described his views on fame in a 2000 interview with Rolling Stone, "I didn't know what being somebody that recognizable entailed. I didn't know what it meant. And Titanic is something that will never happen again. Nor will I ever try to repeat it."

DiCaprio has a name that's instantly recognizable for many. It reportedly means "lion" and "brave" if you're into that sort of thing. So it may surprise you that an agent once told DiCaprio he would have to change his name.

Leonardo DiCaprio was almost Lenny Williams instead

When Leonardo DiCaprio first started out as a kid, an agent felt that the young actor needed a makeover if he was going to make it in Hollywood. He suggested that DiCaprio change his name because it sounded too "ethnic" to make it.

"Yeah, when I was 11 years old, when I first wanted to be an actor professionally. We went to an agent and they wanted to change my name to Lenny Williams," DiCaprio told the Short List in 2015. "They felt my name was too ethnic and I wouldn't get as many jobs. So that thwarted me from being an actor for a number of years. I tried again two years later when I was 13 and got an agent to accept me with my name."

As for DiCaprio, he refused to change his name and waited to become an actor. As for the origin of DiCaprio's name, it turns out that the actor's title was inspired by history's other great Leonardo — Leonardo da Vinci. DiCaprio told NPR in 2014, "My father tells me that they were on their honeymoon at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, I believe. They were looking at a da Vinci painting, and allegedly I started kicking furiously while my mother was pregnant. And my father took that as a sign, and I suppose DiCaprio wasn't that far from da Vinci. And so, my dad, being the artist that he is, said, 'That's our boy's name.'"

Leonardo DiCaprio finds success in acting

Sometimes, you look back on things with regret, but it's easy to say that Leonardo DiCaprio doesn't lose any sleep on refusing to change his name. While the world may never know Lenny Williams, they definitely know who DiCaprio is. The star made a name for himself early in his career starring in both "What's Eating Gilbert Grape" and "Romeo + Juliet." But it was the "Titanic" that put his mark on cinema history.

Still, DiCaprio struggled to achieve what many considered the crown jewel of acting — the Academy Award. Despite his efforts, DiCaprio's roles in "The Wolf of Wall Street," "Django Unchained," and "The Departed" failed to earn him the award. That all changed in 2016 when DiCaprio suffered for his art, appearing in the gritty "The Revenant." The film and following award ended up being a cherry on top to his already impressive career.