By Jill Serjeant and Piya Sinha-Roy
(Reuters) - Leonardo DiCaprio sent girls swooning in "Titanic," swaggered as "The Wolf of Wall Street," and creeped audiences out as reclusive billionaire Howard Hughes.
But it took a seven-month, sub-zero shoot, and a role in which he barely speaks to give him his best shot at finally winning an Oscar.
DiCaprio, 41, and still a bachelor, received his fifth Oscar nod on Thursday, this time for his lead role in "The Revenant. The pioneer-era revenge drama led all contenders with 12 nominations.
DiCaprio plays Hugh Glass, a taciturn, greasy-haired 1820s fur trapper left for dead in the wilderness by his own hunting team after being mauled by a bear that rips his throat.
In a fight for survival, Glass treks through snow-covered forests, gets swept away in a waterfall, sleeps inside the carcass of a disemboweled horse and hungrily eats raw bison liver before making it back to his camp.
DiCaprio has already won a Golden Globe for the role, and he tops pundits' forecasts to take home the best actor Oscar at the Feb. 28 Academy Awards ceremony.
"I think his performance has to be seen by hopefully millions of people, (and) I'm sure they will be emotionally involved and happy about seeing Leo in this caliber," Alejandro G. Inarritu, director of "The Revenant," told Reuters.
DiCaprio, who has dated a string of supermodels, has matured into one of the world's most admired actors, as well as a champion of environmental causes ranging from marine reserves to the rights of indigenous people.
"Hollywood's accepting the fact that Leo is a grown-up now and that his wayward randy bachelor days have calmed down," said Tom O'Neil, founder of awards website goldderby.com. "He's now a producer, and he's expanding his authority as a filmmaker of note."
As a blue-eyed teen, DiCaprio won his first Oscar nomination in 1994 for his supporting role as a mentally challenged boy in "What's Eating Gilbert Grape."
His romantic "Romeo + Juliet" and "Titanic" roles went unrecognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and it was another 10 years before his obsessive-compulsive Hughes in "The Aviator" brought a second Oscar nod.
Nominations for 2006's "Blood Diamond" and 2013's "The Wolf of Wall Street" came and went without DiCaprio taking home the most coveted trophy in show business.
Stefano Tonchi, editor of W magazine, said that in "The Revenant," DiCaprio put in "not 100 percent but 300 percent."
"I know how dedicated he is to saving the planet," Tonchi said, "... and I think to spend so much time immersed in this kind of wild nature and working in such a constrained environment ... brought out a really great performance."
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant and Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)