How Leonardo DiCaprio almost lost playing Jack in Titanic – twice

One of the most iconic shots in the last three decades of film is Leonardo DiCaprioin tuxedo and tails, standing on a large staircase in front of a clock titanicturned and held out his hand to Rose, played by Kate Winslet. This shot almost didn’t happen, because according to the director JamesCameron, DiCaprio almost talked his way out of the movie. Twice.

In conversation with GQ before the release of Avatar: The Way of Water, Cameron continued his hit parade of commentary and anecdotes, this time reminiscing about the making of the hit 1997 film and notably casting DiCaprio as Jack. According to Cameron, DiCaprio was a hit at his audition, “enchanted everyone, including me.” Not to mention the accountants and various other random employees who popped into the audition room to catch a glimpse of the actor. Then came the chemistry class with Winslet. When Cameron took him to read for the duo with his eventual romantic co-star, the first of several on-screen pairings, DiCaprio balked.

“He said, ‘You mean I read?'” Cameron recalls. “And I said yes, he said oh I don’t read. I said, ‘fine’, I shook his hand, I said, ‘thanks for stopping by.’ And he said, ‘Wait, you mean if I don’t read I don’t get the part? Just as?'”

Yes, just so.

“I said, ‘Oh yeah, come on, this is like a huge movie that’s going to take two years of my life and you’re going to do five other things while I do the post-production and all the modeling and everything, well, I’ll do it I don’t mess up by making the wrong casting decision, so you’re going to read or you’re not going to get the part,'” says Cameron. That was the trick – Leo read.

“He comes in and he’s like every ounce of his entire being is so negative until I said action and then he turned into Jack and Kate who just glowed and they went into this whole thing and acted out the scene. Dark clouds had opened and a ray of sunshine came down and illuminated Jack. I think alright, he’s the guy. Crisis averted, or so Cameron thought.

A few weeks later, DiCaprio reached out to Cameron and told him he thought Jack should have “some heartache or problem or something traumatic from the past,” which Cameron took as a sign that maybe young DiCaprio wasn’t really the one right man for the role.

“I said, ‘You’ve made all these great characters who all have a problem, whether it’s addiction or whatever. I said you gotta learn how to hold the center and not have all that stuff. That’s not it Richard III. If you can do what Jimmy Stewart did or Gregory Peck did, they just fucking stood there. They didn’t limp or lisp or whatever then You will be ready for this, but I think you are not ready yet because what I am talking about is actually much more difficult. These things are easier, these are props, these are crutches, which I mean is much more difficult and you’re probably not quite ready for it.’

DiCaprio has come through after Cameron’s tough love pep talk.

“The second I said that, it clicked for him that this was a really tough, challenging film for him, and that was my fault: I didn’t adequately articulate the challenge for him,” says Cameron.

And that, it seems, is how you win an Oscar for best director, as Cameron did titanic. Scene. How Leonardo DiCaprio almost lost playing Jack in Titanic – twice

Charles Jones

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