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Leonardo DiCaprio's Beach Blues
June 21, 2000

Maybe you've heard about Leonardo DiCaprio's latest movie The Beach. In it, Leonardo plays Richard, a young backpacker who goes in search of an island paradise. The Beach was filmed on Maya Beach in southern Thailand.

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When the Hollywood producers of The Beach decided to clean up Maya Beach to make it look pretty for the movie, they made some mistakes. First, they cleaned up the piles of garbage lying around - about three metric tons of the stuff. No one claimed that was a bad thing. But then the producers decided to remove some ugly local plants, scrubby-looking bushes whose roots help to keep the sand on the beach. They also temporarily planted about sixty palm trees along the beach. And they brought in a bulldozer to shift two ten-meter sections of dune.

But once word got out that Hollywood producers were messing around with this beach, environmental activists freaked out. At demonstrations in Bangkok, protestors wore Leonardo DiCaprio masks with fangs dripping blood. The producers felt that these protestors were just using DiCaprio's fame to get attention for themselves. And DiCaprio himself was very angry.

After the filming ended, the producers tried to fix the changes they'd made to the beach. They removed the palm trees and replanted the native scrubby bushes. Then they watched the beach for a year. But a great deal of damage was done to the area by some bad storms during late 1999. A lot of the sand washed away. It's hard to say for sure, but removing the scrubby bushes and bulldozing the sand dunes probably caused this.

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