Tough-guy Putin calls DiCaprio 'a real man'
Not everyone gets to be called a "real man" by Vladimir Putin himself.
But Russia's tough-guy prime minister awarded that honor late Tuesday on Hollywood heart-throb Leonardo DiCaprio, whose plane caught fire on the way to a summit on tigers in Putin's native city Saint Petersburg.
"I would like to thank you for coming despite all the obstacles," Putin told a smiling DiCaprio, who also pledged one million dollars to the tiger cause.
"A person with less-stable nerves could have decided against coming, could have read it as a sign -- that it was not worth going," Putin said during an extended departure from his prepared remarks.
The Russian prime minister said the "Titanic" star had "literally tore his way through to Saint Petersburg," calling DiCaprio "a real man" for his persistence.
DiCaprio was among the passengers on a Delta Airline jet that was forced to make an emergency landing in New York on Monday after losing an engine.
His second plane faced strong headwinds and was required to make an unscheduled refuelling stop in Helsinki, Putin told the audience.
"This is not even funny," said Putin with a smile.
"In our country, they have a saying -- a real man," he concluded.
Putin has carefully cultivated a tough-guy image throughout his political career, using strong language in speeches and practicing judo and even co-piloting fighter jets in front of the television cameras.
His latest stunt came earlier this month, when Putin burned rubber on a racing circuit in a Formula One car.
© 2010 AFP