Leonardo DiCaprio’s attitude nearly cost him the iconic role of Jack Dawson in 1997’s “Titanic”.
DiCaprio — having starred in movies like “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” and “Marvin’s Room” since 1991 — was already something of a Hollywood heartthrob. Director James Cameron walked into a pre-production meeting for “Titanic” and met with a room full of women eager to meet the young actor.
“There was a meeting with Leo and then there was a screen test with Leo,” Cameron said, per People. “The meeting was funny because I am sitting in my conference room, waiting to meet an actor. And I look around, and all the women in the entire office are in the meeting. They all wanted to meet Leo. It was hysterical.”
Actor Christian Bale revealed in Oct. 2022 that DiCaprio gets first dibs on every role in Hollywood. DiCaprio experienced a similar sense of exclusivity dating all the way back to the mid-’90s.
“So he came back a couple of days later, and I had the camera set up to record the video,” Cameron said. “He didn’t know he was going to test. He thought it was another meeting to meet Kate [Winslet]. So I said, ‘Okay, we’ll just go in the next room, and we’ll run some lines and I’ll video it.’ And he said, ‘You mean, I’m reading?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘Oh, I don’t read.’
“I shook his hand and said, ‘Thanks for coming by.’ And he said, ‘Wait, wait, wait. If I don’t read, I don’t get the part? Just like that?’ And I said, ‘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**k it up by making the wrong decision in casting. So, you’re going to read, or you’re not going to get the part.'”
DiCaprio, according to Cameron, did not come into the test reading with the best attitude. Far from it, in fact. Fortunately, the chemistry between him and Winslet, who had already been cast as Rose DeWitt Bukater, was immediate.
“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,” the director explained. “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.'”
“Titanic” premiered in 1997 and received 14 Academy Awards nominations. The film won Best Picture and Best Director; meanwhile, Winslet earned a nod for Best Actress.