Leonardo DiCaprio in 'Growing Pains': A Look Back at the 'J. Edgar' Star's Breakout Role

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When ABC's Growing Pains debuted in September 1985, The Hollywood Reporter called it "a poor copy of Family Ties." THR predicted NBC's The A-Team would crush the family sitcom in the 8:30 p.m. Tuesday ratings, even though "Mr. T is no longer the heavyweight he once was." But Pains lasted seven seasons, including two in the viewership top 10, and three guest actors from the show went on to major stardom: Brad Pitt, Hilary Swank and Leonardo DiCaprio.

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Today's J. Edgar star was 16 when he landed a recurring role on Pains in 1991. It wasn't DiCaprio's first credit: He had grown up in L.A. and appeared in five episodes of the daytime soap Santa Barbara and a dozen episodes of NBC's short-lived Parenthood and had film roles in Poison Ivy and Critters 3. But it was 23 episodes on Pains as Luke Brower, a homeless boy taken in by the Seaver family, that really put him in the public eye.

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Show creator Neal Marlens was also running The Wonder Years by the time DiCaprio came to Pains and has only a vague memory of him being cast. "I remember thinking, 'Hey, this kid is talented,' " says Marlens. "But only in retrospect was his being cast an event."

It was DiCaprio's last stint on television. Within the next five years, the three-time Oscar nominee would make This Boy's Life, What's Eating Gilbert Grape and Romeo + Juliet before blasting into the stratosphere with Titanic.

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