James Cameron says Leonardo DiCaprio nearly lost Titanic role over audition

Claire Reid

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James Cameron says Leonardo DiCaprio nearly lost Titanic role over audition

Featured Image Credit: 20th Century Fox

It’s hard to imagine anyone but Leonardo DiCaprio playing the role of Jack Dawson in Titanic, but according to James Cameron, he almost didn’t land the part due to a very awkward moment during an audition.

DiCaprio already had a fair few high-profile roles under his belt before he starred in Titanic, including What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Romeo & Juliette, so perhaps he’d thought his casting in the movie was a dead-cert.

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But that wasn’t quite the case, according to director Cameron, who recently told GQ that DiCaprio’s refusal to read for the part almost lead to him being let go on the spot.

At the time, DiCaprio had already spoken to Cameron about the role and was invited back for a ‘screen test’ to see if he had any chemistry with Kate Winslet, who had already been cast as Rose DeWitt Bukater.

Cameron says DiCaprio ‘charmed everyone’ in the room but then told the director that he doesn’t read lines when going for a role.

The director explained: “He came back a couple of days later, and I had the camera set up to record the video.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in Titanic. Credit: 20th Century Studios
Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in Titanic. Credit: 20th Century Studios

“He didn’t know he was going to test; he thought it was another meeting to meet Kate.

"So I said, ‘OK, we’ll just go in the next room, and we’ll run some lines and I’ll video it.’”

To this, DiCaprio replied: “You mean I’m reading? Oh, I don’t read.”

But Cameron made it clear to the star he either read the lines or he walked out the door.

“I shook his hand and said, ‘Thanks for coming by'," he explained.

And it was enough to prompt a response from the actor, who said: “Wait, wait, wait. If I don’t read, I don’t get the part? Just like that?”

Leonardo Dicaprio, Kate Winslet, and director James Cameron on the set of Titanic. Credit: PictureLux / The Hollywood Archive / Alamy Stock Photo
Leonardo Dicaprio, Kate Winslet, and director James Cameron on the set of Titanic. Credit: PictureLux / The Hollywood Archive / Alamy Stock Photo

Cameron stuck to his guns, telling DiCaprio: “Oh, yeah. Come on. This is a giant movie that is going to take two years of my life, and you’ll be gone doing five other things while I’m doing post-production.

"So, I’m not going to f*** it up by making the wrong decision in casting. So, you’re going to read, or you’re not going to get the part.’”

Thankfully, and as you probably already guessed, DiCaprio nailed it and the rest is movie history.

Cameron explained: “So he comes in, and he’s like every ounce of his entire being is just so negative – right up until I said, ‘Action.’ Then he turned into Jack. Kate just lit up, and they played the scene. Dark clouds had opened up, and a ray of sun came down and lit up Jack. I’m like, ‘All right. He’s the guy'.”

Topics: Film & TV, Leonardo DiCaprio, Film and TV, Celebrity

Claire Reid
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