Leonardo DiCaprio is Jack Dawson, Jack Dawson is Leonardo DiCaprio, facts are facts, and in the words of Céline Dion, so be it.
But James Cameron recently revealed that DiCaprio’s hot young actor on the rise almost cost him the part that made him a movie star.
Titanic (heard of?) was a big gamble in 1995 when Cameron wanted to cast his doomed lovers. He had considered Gwyneth Paltrow for Rose DeWitt Bukater until he met Kate Winslet, who was “fantastic.” DiCaprio, meanwhile, was at or near the top of the list for Jack.
Merie W. Wallace/20th Century TBEN James Cameron and Leonardo Dicaprio on the set of ‘Titanic’
“There was a meeting with Leo and then there was a screen test with Leo,” Cameron recently shared GK. “The meeting was funny because I’m sitting in my conference room waiting to meet an actor. And I look around, and all the women in the whole office are in the meeting for some reason. There’s a female executive producer “Okay, fine, but our accountant? They all wanted to meet Leo. It was hysterical. I looked around and said, ‘I think I already know the answer to the question here.'”
While everyone (including the accountant) was enamored with DiCaprio, Cameron wanted to make sure he and Winslet had the kind of chemistry that could sell drawing nudes. DiCaprio returned thinking he was going to meet his future leading lady, only to find that Cameron was expecting him – the Oscar-nominated star of What eats Gilbert Grape who had just given free rein to young hearts like Romeo in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet – to read for the part.
Cameron says DiCaprio told him, “Oh, I don’t read.” That’s when Cameron shook hands with the budding heartthrob and said, “Well, thanks for stopping by.” According to the director, a shocked DiCaprio replied, “Wait, wait, wait, if I don’t read I’m not getting the part. Just like that?”
Cameron says he explained that to DiCaprio Titanic was “a huge movie that’s going to take two years off my life, and you’re going to do five other things while I’m doing post-production. So I’m not going to make it up because of the wrong casting decision. So you’re going to read, or you’re going to get not the role.
DiCaprio sucked it up and dragged his bangs into the screen test where, says Cameron, “every ounce of his whole being is completely negative until I said ‘Action,’ and then he turned into Jack. And Kate just lit up and they went on this whole thing and he played the scene. Dark clouds had opened up, a ray of sunshine came down and lit up Jack. I thought, ‘Okay, he’s the man.’
And the rest is history, which in the other words of Céline Dion, “will go on and on oooooooooooonnnn.”