Hollywood hunk LEONARDO DiCAPRIO sympathises with his character HOWARD HUGHES' obsessive compulsive disorder in the late tycoon's biopic THE AVIATOR - because the TITANIC star has been battling the condition throughout his life.

DiCaprio has admitted for the first time that he fights the urge to walk through doorways several times and is obsessed with stepping on every chewing gum stain he sees.

But while Hughes's ailment fuelled a descent into madness, the 30-year-old actor refuses to be a slave to his compulsions.

He explains, "I'm able to say at some point, 'OK, you're being ridiculous,stop stepping on every gum stain you see. You don't need to do walk 20 feet back and put your foot on that thing.

"I remember my make-up artist and assistant walking me to The Aviator set and going, 'Oh God,we're going to need 10 minutes to get him there because he has to walk back and step on that thing, touch that door, and walk in and out again.

"I let myself do it because I wanted that to come out. I was trying to be the character but it became really bothersome - and it continued way after the filming."

03/12/2004 14:17