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Leonardo DiCaprio Gets Help from Environmentalists to Settle 'Beach' Dispute in Thailand

NEW YORK (April 18, 2000) - Film actor Leonardo DiCaprio is enlisting the help of two prominent environmental organizations to assist with the restoration and protection of the location for his current film "The Beach" in Thailand.

The actor is now working with NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) and the World Conservation Union (IUCN) to cooperate with Thai government agencies, environmental groups, and community organization to resolve the controversy over the making of the film last year on an island off the west coast of Thailand.

Some Thai environmentalists sharply criticized Mr. DiCaprio and the film's production company, 20th Century Fox for damage to Maya Bay on Phi Phi Le Island during location shooting for "The Beach." There have been complaints that the film company's subsequent restoration efforts have been inadequate.

The environmental groups also hope to address the need to prevent the bay from being damaged by an expected increase in tourism to Phi Phi Le Island sparked by the film, which opened last week in Japan and is showing in theaters around the world.

Although everyone involved in the film insists that Maya Bay was left in better shape than when they found it -- years of accumulated trash were removed before shooting, for example -- Mr. DiCaprio, who served as Chair of Earth Day 2000, says he wants to take measures to insure that this beautiful natural area is protected in the future.

"I am personally committed to resolving the controversy over 'The Beach' in a manner that serves to protect the environment of Maya Bay and Thailand," Mr. DiCaprio wrote in a letter to the IUCN. He also expressed the hope that "this process could serve as a model for future partnerships between the motion picture industry and conservation organizations."

The IUCN has already initiated consultations with various concerned agencies and groups in Thailand, and will organize a meeting in Thailand in mid May to begin formal discussions to strengthen the conservation and management of Phi Phi Le Island.

Jacob Scherr, director of the International Program at NRDC, has agreed to serve as Mr. DiCaprio's representative in this process. Mr. Scherr, an attorney based in NRDC's Washington office, has more than 20 years' experience working on a broad range of issues with environmentalists and governments in countries around the world.

IUCN, which is based in Gland, Switzerland, is a world forum for environmental cooperation and mediation, bringing together a unique membership of governments, government agencies, citizen groups, and individual scientists and experts from 139 countries.

NRDC is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 400,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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