Titanic: James Cameron explains why Leonardo DiCaprio was almost fired

Currently promoting the long-awaited Avatar 2, James Cameron spoke about the other films of his career during an interview with GQ. He notably mentioned Titanic and this whim of Leonardo DiCaprio which had almost cost him the role of Jack Dawson.

Titanic: James Cameron is the master of the world

In 1997 (January 1998 in France), the world discovered titanic by James Cameron. A (very) feature film of crazy ambition that returns to the sinking drama through the eyes of two young people who fall madly in love: Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt Bukater. The first is interpreted by Leonardo DiCaprio, the second by Kate Winslet.

If the production of the film was not a cakewalk (many experts predicted a commercial disaster), it is today still in third place greatest movie hits of all time and won 11 Oscars, including Best Picture. He also participated in building the careers of his two stars. But Leonardo DiCaprio almost missed out on the role.

Leonardo DiCaprio (Jack Dawson) – Titanic © 20th Century Studios

“Thank you for stopping by”

Currently in full promotion of the highly anticipated Avatar 2, James Cameron is having a field day in an interview. And since he’s not the type to practice jargon, it’s an opportunity to learn crisp anecdotes on his films. During a career interview given to GQthe director returned to Leonardo DiCaprio’s audition for titanic. And it was not easy!

During the recruitment process, James Cameron first met Leonardo DiCaprio alone, to talk about the project. He then wanted to see it in action and so organized a video test. By this time, Kate Winslet had already been cast in the role of Rose. But Leonardo DiCaprio didn’t have Jack’s yet.

After a first meeting which had gone wonderfully, the director therefore invited the actor to take part in a test. But the latter was not aware that he was going to have to record in front of cameras. Indeed, he thought that this meeting was made to meet Kate Winslet:

I had installed the cameras to record the test. He didn’t know he was going to have to do this exercise. He thought it was another date to meet Kate. So I told him, “OK, we’ll go to the next room to record some lines and I’ll film them”. And he said “you mean I’m going to read?” I said “yes” and he replied “Oh I don’t read”. So I shook his hand and said “thank you for coming by”.

said James Cameron.

From Leo to Jack

Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) - Titanic
Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio) – Titanic © 20th Century Studios

After this somewhat complicated exchange, James Cameron was ready to give up on Leonardo DiCaprio. But the latter eventually returned after learning that if he didn’t read, he didn’t get the part. The director recalled his response to her:

It’s a gigantic project to which I’m going to devote two years of my life, you’ll be making five other films while I’m still in post-production. So I’m not going to screw it up making it a bad casting choice so you’re gonna read or you don’t get the part.

And as you might expect, Leonardo DiCaprio ended up doing the video test, and everything became crystal clear:

He walks into the room, he was all negativity, until I said “action!”. There he transformed into Jack. They played the scene with Kate (…) and I said “ok it’s him, it’s the good one”.

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