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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Leonardo DiCaprio says at the age of 35 he is just beginning to absorb his heady acting career alongside the likes of Jack Nicholson and Daniel Day Lewis.
He is one of Hollywood's top leading men who can regularly command $20 million a movie. His latest film, "Shutter Island," is his fourth collaboration with director Martin Scorsese. It hits U.S. theaters on February 19.
DiCaprio talked to Reuters about the film, his plans and the roots of his well-known passion as one of Hollywood's top environmental crusaders.
Q. What surprised you about this film?
A. "The thing that surprised me the most about this material is as many different genres that are mixed in, whatever Scorsese did stylistically with this film, at it's very essence it is a film about the human condition and human trauma and the dark side of who we are."
Q. How is your influence in Hollywood changing? You seem to be doing a lot more producing?
A. "I am never going to act again, yeah (laughs). No, I have a production company that all stemmed from 10 years ago wanting to be able to develop my own material because I just wasn't finding things I got excited about. It all stemmed from "Gangs of New York" and searching that out and saying, 'Well, if I was able to search this out and I got to be able to work with Martin Scorsese on this project, there has got to be other projects out there that maybe the studios aren't paying attention to."
Q. You are one of Hollywood's top earners. What are your thoughts on the salary of actors at the top of their game?
A. "Yes, I think it is absolutely justified."
Q. Why is that?
A. "A lot of actors draw in a certain audience, it's the truth. You put Brad Pitt or George Clooney or Johnny Depp or all these guys who are able to finance movies because of their name. With somebody else it wouldn't possibly get the same attention ... People who are able to bring in a certain audience deserve to get paid for that not just the studios."
Q. You're only 35 but it seems like you have been in movies for so long now going back to "The Boy's Life" and "What's Eating Gilbert Grape.' What age do you feel?
A. "What age do I feel? (laughs) Growing up in this industry has been an interesting experience ... It's something that you have to look back in hindsight because you have these amazing experiences, and I have had quite a few that I have been fortunate enough to have while working. But you know you have to sort of stop and think, 'Wow, that really happened to me, that was my story, that was my experience with Jack Nicholson or Daniel Day Lewis'.
Q. You grew up in urban Los Angeles but you have carved out a reputation as one of the biggest names to vocally support the environment and preserving nature. You get hounded to support so many issues, why this one?
A. "I was very affected when I was young as a kid living in an urban environment. My only access to understanding nature was through documentaries and being able to go to the natural history museum and watching IMAX shows on the rainforest. It just affected me at a very young age, the depletion of the rain forest, our natural resources."
Q. You have been writing blogs and campaigning heavily for years now. Do you want to be the next Al Gore, do you think of yourself an environmental crusader?
A. "Crusader, that summons up images of a man with a sword on a horse (laughs). I took up the issue 10 years ago and I have seen massive progress ever since Al Gores's documentary. And I have also seen the issue ignored and re-ignored.
"Until we as a country start moving in a positive direction, I am going to continue to do that because we really are the ones. We and China need to set the example for the rest of the world to follow with clean energy and green technology."
Editing by Patricia Reaney