Leonardo DiCaprio has embodied countless memorable characters throughout his career, but when it comes down to it, none are perhaps as globally iconic as his leading role in a little-known film called Titanic.
Leo and Kate Winslet starred in the 1997 blockbuster as Jack and Rose, and their stellar performances quickly cemented them as one of the most recognizable on-screen duos in movie history.
However, according to its director, the couple was close to being scrapped.
Sit down to retrace the behind-the-scenes magic of some of their most iconic titles with G.Q. this week, James Cameron recalled the controversial selection process for Titanic.
First off, the filmmaker explained that casting Kate in the lead role was a no-brainer and happened “pretty early” in his search for his stars.
Despite initially considering Gwyneth Paltrow for Rose, Kate walked in and gave a “fantastic” audition, instantly landing the job.
As for her co-star, the process wasn’t that smooth, if you’ll excuse the pun.
With Kate firmly on board, the search for Jack was on and he recently earned his first Oscar nomination for What is Gilbert Grape eating in 1994, Leo was on top.
James recalled his first meeting with Leo and reflected on the inevitable buzz surrounding the young movie star.
“I’m sitting in my conference room, waiting to meet an actor, and I look around and all the women from the entire office are in the meeting,” he said with a laugh. “Everyone wanted to meet Leo. He was hysterical ”.
Unsurprisingly, Leo’s first meeting was a smashing success, with James saying he “wowed” everyone, including himself. However, this was not enough to seal the deal.
Before he could be offered the part, Leo would have to team up with Kate for a screen test, which is where things got a little sticky.
“He came back a couple of days later and I had the camera set up to record the video,” the director recalled. “He didn’t know he was going to do the test. He thought it was another meeting to meet Kate.
At this point, James said that Leo refused to read with Kate, which almost brought the audition to an abrupt end.
“I said, ‘Okay, we’ll go in the next room, write a few lines and I’ll videotape it.’ And he said, ‘You mean I’m reading?’ I said yes’. He said, ‘Oh, I don’t read,’” James recalled. “I shook his hand and said, ‘Thank you for coming.'”
Eager to land the part, the sudden firing shook Leo into reconsidering, asking, “Wait, wait, wait. If I don’t read, I don’t get the part? So?”
In response, James set the record straight, making it clear that Leo would not be allowed to cut corners if he wanted to be chosen.
“’Oh yeah. Come on. This is a giant movie that’s going to take two years of my life, and you’re going to go do five other things while I do post-production,’” he told the actor. “’So, no. I’m going to screw it up by making the wrong casting decision. So, you’re going to read, or you’re not going to get the part.’”
Leo agreed to the screen test, but apparently wasn’t too enthusiastic, until the cameras started rolling.
“So he walks in, and it’s like every ounce of his entire being is so negative, right up until I said, ‘Action.’ Then he became Jack,” James said of the screen test. “Kate just fired up and they played the scene. Dark clouds had parted and a ray of sunlight came down and caught Jack. I’m like, ‘Okay. He’s the guy.’”
Of course, you don’t need us to tell you that he obviously made the right choice, with Leo and Kate’s palpable on-screen chemistry helping to take the film to stratospheric levels of success.
Looking back on his choice, the Academy Award winner reflected on how “fragile” the casting process can be and how it can define the success of a film, along with the rest of an actor’s career.
“You try to imagine that movie without Leo or Kate, it’s very hard to do,” James said, acknowledging that at the time Leo was cast, the movie had been a bit out of his comfort zone.
He said that Leo, that I was 21 when Titanic was filmed, he had been keen to give Jack’s character a more complicated edge, saying that he had even suggested they tweak the script to give him “some grief” and a “traumatic thing from the past”.
However, James felt that this was not necessary and proceeded to give him some advice to help him execute the performance in a more refined way.
“I told him, ‘Look, you’ve done all these great characters who have a problem, whether it’s an addiction or whatever… you’ve got to learn to stay centered and not have all that stuff,'” he said. Lion. “’Then you’ll be ready for this,’” he added.
This was apparently a major turning point for the actor and ultimately helped him master the role.
“The moment I said that, he realized that this was a really difficult and challenging movie for him,” James recalled. “[Leo] He didn’t want something that was easy, he wanted something that was hard, and that’s been his instinct ever since.”