Without Leonardo DiCaprio, it is difficult to imagine the iconic Titanic movie. However, James Cameron, the director, himself couldn’t imagine DiCaprio in the movie at first. It took him a while to change his mind and cast DiCaprio in Titanic.

"I actually didn’t want Leo…”: Leonardo DiCaprio Almost Didn’t Get Cast in Iconic $2.2 Billion Movie Reveals James Cameron

Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic

Why James Cameron Almost Didn’t Cast Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘Titanic’?

When James Cameron started casting for the lead role of Titanic in the year 1997, there were too many young actors that were participating in the audition of Jack Dawson.

There were many popular faces, like Chris O’Donnell, Matthew McConaughey, and Christian Bale, interested in the lead role in the Titanic movie.

"I actually didn’t want Leo…”: Leonardo DiCaprio Almost Didn’t Get Cast in Iconic $2.2 Billion Movie Reveals James Cameron
Kate Winslet

And later, when Leonardo’s name was given forward for consideration in the lead role, James Cameron wasn’t convinced as he had already made some reservations in his mind for the lead role.

Despite the initial reluctance, James cast Leonardo DiCaprio for the lead role and delivered a memorable performance which helped the movie break multiple records and became a blockbuster hit.

James, while talking to Vanity Fair, said that

The curious thing is, I actually didn’t want Leo at first. Leo was recommended by the studios, as were other young, hot actors. . . . He didn’t strike me as necessarily having the qualities that I wanted for my Jack.

But for Leonardo DiCaprio, it didn’t take too long to convenience the director James Cameron. Later, James stated

“But I met him and basically just loved him. He can quickly charm a group of people without doing anything obvious. . . . The second I met him I was convinced”

Before Leonardo was cast in Titanic, he also had some doubts while accepting the role of Jack Dawson. Previously, he had played many complex roles in movies like What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.

But James was able to convince him to play Jack in the movie, a character that is simple and straightforward. James later added

Look, in a way, that’s the easy stuff. Because you’ve got s*** to hide behind. When you’re playing someone who is very clear . . . you have to make the scenes work from a place of purity.

Leonardo DiCaprio’s Initial Hesitation to Play Jack in ‘Titanic’ and How He Overcame It

Despite initial hesitation, DiCaprio took on the role of Jack Dawson in Titanic after encouragement from Cameron. Though the two had creative differences during filming, they worked through them and delivered a successful project.

In an interview with GQ, James said that

So Leo came in, of course, charmed everybody, myself included, and I said ‘All right, let’s see what your chemistry’s like with Kate.’ So he comes in a couple of days later, he didn’t know he was gonna test

Cameron continued

He came in, he thought it was another meeting to meet Kate. And I said ‘Okay, so we’ll just go in the next room and we’ll just, we’ll run some lines and I’ll video it.’ And he said, ‘You mean I’m reading?’, and I said ‘Yeah!’ And he said, ‘Oh, I don’t read,’ and I said well, I shook his hand, and said ‘Well, thanks for coming by.

While James wasn’t willing to offer Leonard the lead role because Leonard had a bad attitude towards reading for his role in Titanic, which almost cost him the part. James wanted  DiCaprio to read for the role before casting him, which he eventually did, but with reluctance.

Cameron added

So he comes in and he’s like… every ounce of his entire being is just so negative. Right up until I said ‘Action’, and then he turned into Jack. And Kate just lit up, and they went into this whole thing and 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

Why Leonardo DiCaprio Considered “Titanic” An Experiment?

Leonard DiCaprio didn’t anticipate the immense success and impact the movie Titanic would have on his life. However, Leonard knew that the film was different from other movies he had previously done.

In an interview with Deadline, Leonardo DiCaprio stated that

Titanic was very much an experiment for Kate Winslet and I. We’d done all of these independent movies. I loved her as an actress and she said, ‘Let’s do this together, we can do this.’ We did it, and it became something that we could’ve never foreseen

Titanic propelled Leonardo DiCaprio to a new level of fame and success, which was initially overwhelming for him.

However, he ultimately expressed gratitude towards the film for allowing him more creative freedom in his career than ever before.

DiCaprio added

I had forged by then exactly what type of films I wanted to do. I used it as a blessing, to make R-rated, different kinds of movies, to throw the dice a little bit on things I wanted to act in. People would want to finance those movies now. I’d never had that, before Titanic

Source: Deadline, VanityFair