Academy Award-winning director James Cameron doesn’t let anyone get in the way of his vision, be it a movie director or Leonardo DiCaprio.
In an interview with GQ published Tuesday, the legendary filmmaker revealed that DiCaprio nearly lost his role in 1997’s “Titanic” because the not-yet-megastar initially refused to read for the part.
“So, of course, Leo came in and cast a spell on everyone, including myself,” Cameron told the magazine of the casting session. “I said, ‘Okay, let’s see how your chemistry is with Kate [Winslet].’ So he comes a few days later and I set up the camera to record the video.
Having been a child and teen star for years, DiCaprio had put together an impressive resume at the time, starring in major motion pictures opposite Johnny Depp and Robert De Niro, but he had yet to helm a $200 million blockbuster like “Titanic.” . Winslet had already been cast in the film.
“He came in thinking it was another meeting to meet Kate,” Cameron told GQ. “And I said, ‘Okay, so we’ll just go into the next room and we’ll just, we’ll go over some lines and I’ll film it.’ And he said, “You mean I’m reading?” And I said, “Yes.” He said, ‘Oh, I don’t read.’”
Cameron recalled shaking his hand and thanking him “for stopping by”. DiCaprio, who was in his early 20s, was so taken aback by the rather innocent request that he asked, “Wait, wait, wait, you mean if I don’t read I don’t get the part? Just like that?”
The director of “Terminator” was adamant.
“Oh, yes,” Cameron said to DiCaprio. “Come on. This is like a giant movie that’s going to take two years off my life and you’re going to do five other things while I do the post production and all the modeling. … I’m not going to screw it up by making the wrong casting decision .
DiCaprio finally agreed and auditioned for the character of Jack Dawson with “every ounce of his whole being”. Cameron said “dark clouds had opened up and a ray of sunshine came down and lit up Jack.”
“Titanic” grossed more than $600 million during its domestic run, generated another $59 million from subsequent re-releases, and has grossed $2.2 billion worldwide to date, according to Variety.
Cameron’s film earned 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. While DiCaprio didn’t win one for “Titanic,” his decision to audition for Cameron propelled him into one of Hollywood’s most successful careers — and eventually a Best Actor Oscar in 2016.