Leonardo DiCaprio has "always been fascinated with wealth in America".
The 39-year-old actor was born and raised in Los Angeles and his mother, Irmelin - who divorced his father George DiCaprio when he was young - worked several jobs to support them.
He admits he was intrigued by the "other side of the spectrum" and recent films he's done including 'The Wolf of Wall Street' and 2013's 'The Great Gatsby' are about the "corruption" of the American dream.
Quizzed on his recent films, he told collider.com: "The truth is that I've always been fascinated with wealth in America. To me, its been about the American dream and the corruption of that dream.
Coming from where I was brought up, I went to a school in Beverly Hills and I always looked at the other side of the spectrum. Its been a fascination of mine, for a long period of time."
DiCaprio stars as corrupt stockbroker Jordan Belfort who engaged in securities fraud and corruption on Wall Street in Martin Scorsese's latest film and he was keen to take on roles like this following the "economic downfall" in 2008.
The Hollywood hunk explained: "Certainly since 2008 and what happened with the economic downfall, [The Wolf of Wall Street] in particular, and this element of our very culture, was something that I wanted to put up on the screen."
DiCaprio plays Jay Gatsby in the latest adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel, and his character is an archetype of self-made American men seeking to join high society.
He thinks Gatsby and Belfort both have a number of similarities as they've both "recreated" themselves but insists they are driven by different motivations.
He added: "They both come from the underworld. They recreate themselves. But, putting this culture up on the screen is something I've been wanting to do, for a long time. Jordan is the antithesis of Gatsby. His motivations come from a reptilian part of his brain, whereas Gatsby is doing it all for love.
"Those are two entirely different motivations. But since 2008, I felt we needed to explore the darker nature of humanity with these character who have complete disregard for anyone except themselves, and their own greed and lust for power."