James Cameron on how Leonardo DiCaprio almost didn’t play Jack in Titanic

Earlier this week Avatar: The Path of Water director and screenwriter James Cameron settle down with GQ to talk about his latest film. The acclaimed filmmaker has finally gone through all his films and revealed some behind-the-scenes information about each project he has done. He was one of them, of course Titanica film that is a landmark for his career and cinematography itself.


Titanic became the highest-grossing film of all time in 1997 and turned the lead actors into superstars Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio. They probably didn’t realize how big it was going to be at the time, but Cameron certainly knew what kind of project he was putting together. Therefore, he had a clear idea that the casting of star lovers Jack (DiCaprio) and Rose (Winslet) must be perfect. During the interview, he revealed that he was initially hesitant to call Winslet in for an audition, a decision he immediately regretted after seeing her read his lines. However, the casting process started off on the wrong foot for DiCaprio, and the director might well have gone a different route if Leo hadn’t broken his own rules. Cameron states:

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“So of course Leo came in, charmed everyone, including me, and I said ‘Okay, let’s see how your chemistry is with Kate.’ So he comes in a few days later […] he didn’t know he was going to test. He came thinking it was another meeting to meet Kate. And I said ‘Okay, well, we’ll go into the next room and do a few lines and I’ll shoot it. And he said, ‘You think I read?’, and I said, ‘Yeah!’ And he said, ‘Oh, I don’t read,’ and I said fine, and I shook his hand and said, ‘Well, thanks for coming.'”

Titanic Still

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Needless to say that Titanic the story could have turned out very differently if DiCaprio hadn’t gotten mad at Cameron. As the director continues to tell the story, he reveals that the young actor was so frustrated that the director was unwilling to give him the part on the spot that he decided to audition out of spite. What happened next was magical:

“So he walks in and he’s like… every ounce of his whole being is so negative. Until I said ‘Action’ and then he turned into Jack. And Kate just turned on the light and they went into it all and played the scene… The dark clouds parted and a ray of sunlight came down and lit up Jack. I say ‘Okay, he’s the guy’.”

Titanic was the most expensive film ever made at the time of production. It held the title of highest-grossing film ever for 12 years and was the first to cross the $1 billion mark in ticket sales. Much of that success rested on the undeniable chemistry between DiCaprio and Winslet, which must have fueled the story for at least an hour—the diving sequence doesn’t begin until about halfway through the film. The cast is also played Kathy Bates, Billy Zane, Gloria Stuart, Victor Garberand Bill Paxton.

You can watch the full interview with James Cameron below:

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