DiCaprio joins the Green wing

While movie buffs attend the Italian premiere of 'The Departed', the actor displays his environmental cred with two eco-consciousness-raising short films
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The Independent Online

Hollywood heart-throb turned environmental campaigner Leonardo DiCaprio brings his green gospel to Rome today. DiCaprio will be in Rome to present two short films he has made on ecological issues.

The official reason for the actor's presence in town is to appear at tonight's Italian premiere of Martin Scorsese's The Departed, one of the highlights of the very first Rome Film Festival, which opened this weekend. But DiCaprio will also be appearing this afternoon outside the festival at the Tor della Monaca Theatre to present his short films Global Warning and Water Planet.

Each film is a brief piece narrated by Di Caprio over still images and slogans, offering a simple primer in environmental awareness. In Water Planet, the actor explains water shortage and urges the UN to instigate a global treaty on the right to water. In Global Warning, he highlights the depletion of natural fuel resources; attacks the oil industry, insisting, "We must demand a separation between oil and state"; and urges viewers, "Get educated - join the fight to save this unique planet."

The films last roughly five minutes each - Di Caprio's appearance today is expected to last 30 minutes in all - and they pose no threat to this year's big green cinema hit, Al Gore's lecture film An Inconvenient Truth, which has grossed over £12m in the US. However, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation - which the actor founded in 1998 to promote environmental awareness - is currently preparing a feature-length documentary, 11th Hour, to be released early next year. Also next year, DiCaprio can be seen starring in Blood Diamond, a drama that attacks the trade in African "conflict diamonds" - gems generating revenues that support dictatorships and fund wars.

The actor has long identified himself as an environmentalist, but found himself in an embarrassing position in 1999, when filming Danny Boyle's The Beach. The shoot, on the Thai island of Phi Phi Le, involved bulldozing sand and planting palm trees, and the production and its backer 20th Century Fox came under attack from local government and island residents over claims that the island had been damaged. Di Caprio insisted that the production actually cleaned up the island and insisted: "I don't want a bad reputation as somebody who endorses something hostile to the environment."

The following year, DiCaprio visited Washington to interview then-president Bill Clinton for ABC television on global warming and ways of making the White House more eco-friendly. He recently announced his plans to turn Blackadore Caye, a 104-acre island off the coast of Belize, into an eco-friendly, self-sustaining holiday resort.

"Money is very important to me," the actor has said. "I want to accumulate enough so that one day I can do something really great for other people, for the environment or for children." He has put his money where his mouth is with his website, leonardodicaprio. org, which features sections on global warming and biodiversity, and takes President Bush to task - as well as recommending CDs of eco-conscious songs for children.

DiCaprio's activities highlight how being green is increasingly a measure of a credibility in Hollywood. For several years, Toyota - maker of the hybrid Prius - and Global Green - with whom DiCaprio collaborates - have sponsored a programme whereby stars arrive at the Academy Awards ceremony in fuel-efficient cars. Brad Pitt has also recently worked with Global Green, sponsoring a competition for energy-efficient housing design to rebuild New Orleans. And last year, the makers of the George Clooney film Syriana, about the oil industry, stressed that it was a "climate-neutral"production, with "green credits" equal to 2,040 tons of carbon dioxide bought to offset pollutants generated in making it.

You don't need to travel to Rome to see DiCaprio's short films - they are viewable on his website. Meanwhile his Italian fans today can savour him following traditional Hollywood pursuits, blowing away low-lifes in The Departed.

Star Power: Other people on the Global Green bandwagon

Morgan Freeman Actor, aged 69, who starred in Driving Miss Daisy and won Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Million Dollar Baby. He is on the board of a bio-fuels firm (with Willie Nelson), and campaigns on green issues.

Brad Pitt Superstar, consort of Angelina Jolie, and campaigner. Involved with Global Green housing projects, including a design competition for eco-friendly homes in New Orleans. Drives a hybrid.

General Wesley Clark Former US commander in Kosovo, who ran in the Democratic presidential primaries in 2004. Is a member of the Honorary National Task Force advising on for sustainable housing post-Hurricane Katrina.