Oscar-winning director James Cameron won’t let anyone stand in the way of his vision, whether it’s a director or Leonardo DiCaprio.
In an interview with GQ released Tuesday, the legendary director revealed that DiCaprio almost lost his role in 1997’s “Titanic” because the non-megastar initially refused to read for the part.
“So Leo came in, obviously he charmed everyone, including me,” Cameron told the magazine of the casting session. “I said, ‘Okay, let’s see what your chemistry is with Kate.’ [Winslet].’ So he comes a few days later and I set up the camera to record the video.
After years as a child and teenager, DiCaprio has built an impressive resume at the time, having starred in major films alongside Johnny Depp and Robert De Niro, but has yet to direct a $200 million blockbuster like “Titanic”. Winslet had already been cast in the film.
“He came in and thought it was another date to meet Kate,” Cameron told GQ. “And I said, ‘OK, so we’re going to go into the next room and do a few lines and I’m going to shoot.’ And he said, “You mean I’m reading?” And I said, “Yes.” He said, “Oh, I don’t read.”
Cameron recalled shaking her hand and thanking her “for stopping by.” DiCaprio, who was 20, was so taken aback by the seemingly innocuous request that he asked, “Wait, wait, wait, you mean if I don’t read, I don’t get the part? Simply?”
The “Terminator” director was adamant.
“Oh yeah,” Cameron said she told DiCaprio. “We’re starting. It’s like a huge movie that’s going to take up two years of my life and you go do five other things while I do the post-production and all the modeling work. screw it up by making a bad casting decision.”
Ultimately, DiCaprio accepted and auditioned for the character of Jack Dawson with “every ounce of his being”. Cameron said that “the dark clouds parted and a ray of sunshine came down and illuminated Jack”.
“Titanic” grossed more than $600 million during its domestic run, generated an additional $59 million from subsequent re-releases and has grossed $2.2 billion worldwide to date, according to Variety.
Cameron’s film won 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. Although DiCaprio didn’t win any for “Titanic,” his decision to audition for Cameron helped launch him into one of Hollywood’s most successful careers — and ultimately an Oscar for best actor in 2016.