Leonardo DiCaprio tops EW's list of entertainers -- ''Titanic,'' ''Celebrity,'' and ''The Man in the Iron Mask'' are just a few of the reasons he's tops

Consider his dual role in The Man in the Iron Mask; add to that his terrific bit of self-parody in Woody Allen’s Celebrity; then tally the grosses for a certain boat movie that sailed through the first quarter of 1998 and left box office records in its wake. Factor them all together, and they still won’t explain why Leonardo DiCaprio must be named ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY’s 1998 Entertainer of the Year. For DiCaprio — or rather, the phenomenon of DiCaprio — is much greater than the sum of his accomplishments. This year, for better or worse, and certainly in spite of himself, he came to personify the unique era and culture that declared him a star.

In 1998, the 24-year-old actor (a really fine actor, lest we forget) grew so large on the global cultural landscape that by last summer, he was instantly recognized by one name: LEO — two vowels and one consonant typed incessantly by headline writers whose papers and magazines goosed circulation chronicling his every business dealing (one day he’s starring in American Psycho for $21 million, the next he’s not); his every foray into Manhattan nightclubs (with his now-infamous entourage, dubbed ”the p—y posse”); his every alleged canoodle with a model (Kate! Amber! Naomi!). DiCaprio’s lack of an Oscar nod for Titanic, and his subsequent no-show at the March event, got more attention than anyone who did show up at the Academy Awards. Internet enthusiasts could visit 500 websites in order to declare their love for Leo or join in the inevitable backlash. Book publishers searched for the soul behind the night crawler in tomes such as Lovin’ Leo: Your Leonardo DiCaprio Keepsake Scrapbook and Leonardo DiCaprio: Romantic Hero. A Nexis search of newspapers and magazines showed that DiCaprio had been mentioned at least 12,000 times in 1998.

In the sound and fury of Leo-mania (a kind of frenzy, by the way, unparalleled since the Beatles) the object of all this affection maintained a remarkable silence and kept a carefully choreographed distance. By relaying ”no comment” or speaking through his beleaguered publicist, DiCaprio revealed nothing about himself; meanwhile, he spoke volumes about us. The box office figures of Titanic ($1.8 billion worldwide) and the Internet hours devoted to its star signified the power of the exploding post-boom teen audience with money to burn (a reflection of a healthy economy) and an insatiable hunger for pop culture. America’s fascination with movie stars — which DiCaprio sent up in Celebrity by playing a bratty, fawned-over young actor — was accommodated with torrents of ink and gales of airtime: Leo goes house hunting! Leo visits a fan in the hospital! Leo has a dozen TVs! And attaches Sony PlayStations to each one!

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