Leonardo DiCaprio almost had Titanic role taken away from him after he REFUSED to screen test

Leonardo DiCaprio almost had Titanic role taken away from him by James Cameron after actor REFUSED to screen test with Kate Winslet: ‘You’re going to read, or you’re not going to get the part’

  • James Cameron, the director of Titanic, said that he was ready to recast the part of Jack after Leonardo DiCaprio refused to do a screen test
  • Cameron, 68, recalled the auditioning process for the 1997 epic romance and dished on DiCaprio, who was 23 years old when the film was released
  • The director remembered DiCaprio reluctantly agreeing to do the screen test and remaining ‘negative’ up until he shouted ‘action’ 
  • DiCaprio almost missed his shot at being in Titanic, but Cameron says he can’t imagine the film’s success without the actor  

Leonardo DiCaprio almost didn’t get to play his iconic role as Jack in Titanic after he refused to do a screen test with co-star Kate Winslet

Director James Cameron, 68, recalled the audition process for the 1997 film in an interview with GQ and revealed the heartthrob was almost sacked as the lead for Jack Dawson before even getting before a camera. 

Cameron dished on how DiCaprio, who was 23 years old when the movie come out, charmed everyone at the production office. The young star, however, then refused to chemistry test with Winslet, leading the director to threaten to take away the role from the young actor.

‘He didn’t know he was going to test,’ Cameron said. ‘He came in, he thought it was another meeting to meet Kate. And I said, “okay, we’ll just go in the next room we’ll run some lines and I’ll video it.” And he said, “you mean I’m reading?” and I said “Yeah.” He said, “I don’t read.” 

‘And I said, “Well,” and I shook his hand and I said, “Thanks for coming by.”‘

DiCaprio then responded: ‘Wait, wait, wait. You mean if I don’t read, I don’t get the part, just like that?’

To which Cameron said: ‘Oh, yeah, come on, this is a giant movie. It’s going to take two years of my life and you’ll be gone doing five other things while I’m doing post-production and all the model work and everything, so I’m not gonna f**k it up by making the wrong decision in casting, so you’re gonna read or you’re not gonna get the part.’

Cameron said that DiCaprio reluctantly agreed to the screen test and had a ‘negative’ attitude up until the director shouted ‘action,’ when he put his ego aside.

‘Then he turned into Jack,’ Cameron said. ‘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.’

The epic romance became one of the most successful movies of all time, earning $2.2 billion. The film held the record for ticket sales for decades until another movie by Cameron, ‘Avatar,’ took the spot as the number one grossing movie with $2.9 billion at the box office.

James Cameron, the director of Titanic, said that he nearly let Leonardo DiCaprio go after the actor refused to do a screen test

James Cameron, the director of Titanic, said that he nearly let Leonardo DiCaprio go after the actor refused to do a screen test 

Cameron, 68, recalled the auditioning process for the 1997 epic romance and dished on DiCaprio, who was 23 years old when the film was released

Cameron, 68, recalled the auditioning process for the 1997 epic romance and dished on DiCaprio, who was 23 years old when the film was released

The director remembered DiCaprio reluctantly agreeing to do the screen test and remaining 'negative' up until he shouted 'action'

The director remembered DiCaprio reluctantly agreeing to do the screen test and remaining ‘negative’ up until he shouted ‘action’

 The actor, 48, had starred in various films before booking Titanic, including Romeo and Juliet, Total Eclipse, The Basketball Diaries and the tv series, Growing Pains.

DiCaprio secured his role in the film after the screen test, but later suggested Cameron consider writing in a traumatic past for the role of Jack. 

Cameron said a tragic backstory wasn’t necessary for Jack and in return suggested that DiCaprio might not be ready for the nuanced role.

‘And I said, “Look, you’ve done all these great characters that all have a problem, whether it’s addiction or whatever it is,” I said, “You gotta learn how to hold the center and not have all that stuff. This isn’t Richard III. 

‘When you can do what Jimmy Stewart did or Gregory Peck did, they just f***ing stood there. They didn’t have a limp or lisp or whatever. Then you’ll be ready for this. But I’m thinking you’re not ready, ’cause what I’m talking about is actually much harder. Those things are easier. Those are props, those are crutches…. and you’re probably not ready for it.’

Cameron said that the talk was a reality check for DiCaprio, who was yearning for a new challenge. 

‘He wanted something that was hard. And that’s been his instinct since then and it leads to things like The Revenant, right?’ Cameron said. 

‘He knew how to map a career; he didn’t know specifically what to do in that moment. But you see how fragile that stuff is, ’cause you try to imagine that movie without Leo or Kate, it’s very hard to do.’ 

DiCaprio almost missed his shot at being in Titanic, but Cameron can't imagine the film's success without the actor

DiCaprio almost missed his shot at being in Titanic, but Cameron can’t imagine the film’s success without the actor

The epic romance was a top hit at the box office, with 2.2 billion earned

The epic romance was a top hit at the box office, with 2.2 billion earned

Cameron also recalled being hesitant to cast Winslet as Rose. 

At the time, Winslet had done several other historical films, earning her the moniker ‘Corset Kate.’

‘I thought, “Oh man, this is going to look like the laziest casting in the world. All right, I’ll meet her, sure,” but I was thinking Gwyneth Paltrow or maybe somebody else. But I met Kate and she was fantastic, she was just fantastic.’ 

By the time DiCaprio arrived for his chemistry screen test with Kate, her role as Rose was already secured. 

Cameron dished on the romantic epic and working with Winslet and DiCaprio on set, including preparations for the famous sunset kiss on the boat's deck. The director said that they waited days for the right moment

Cameron dished on the romantic epic and working with Winslet and DiCaprio on set, including preparations for the famous sunset kiss on the boat’s deck. The director said that they waited days for the right moment 

Cameron had reservations about casting both Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in the starring roles. Titanic is now the third highest earning film at the box office

Cameron had reservations about casting both Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in the starring roles. Titanic is now the third highest earning film at the box office

Cameron dished on the romantic epic and working with Winslet and DiCaprio on set, including preparations for the famous sunset kiss on the boat deck.

‘[We] choreographed the kiss in rehearsal weeks ahead of time, so we knew what we were gonna do, even down to I drew little lips on my hands and I showed them exactly who’s gonna lead… like a football play on lips, right?’ Cameron said. 

‘They’re both so analytical, they loved that. So, we knew what we were gonna do, the question is, how are we gonna get the elements to agree.’ 

The director said that they had to wait for the perfect moment to film the kiss on a day when it wasn’t too cloudy. 

‘And probably 15 minutes before sunset, it just opened up and turned into these red bands and the sun came down out of the overcast and it was like “Guys, we got a sunset.” Kate had to scramble from one outfit to another.’ 

Cameron continued: ‘I’ve never had this happen with an actor in my life before or since. Kate gets up there, she takes a look at the sunset and she turns to me and screams “Shoot!” 

‘We wound up getting two takes. One was completely out of focus and the other take was half out of focus, and the one that is half out of focus is in the movie.’

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