James Cameron Reveals Why Leonardo DiCaprio Almost Lost 'Titanic' Role

James Cameron revealed some intriguing tidbits from the making of Titanic, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary next month. GQ recently published a video interview with the legendary director in which he revealed that he almost didn't cast Leonardo DiCaprio or Kate Winslet, the movie's two romantic leads, in the Oscar-winning film. Cameron explained that he initially considered Gwyneth Paltrow to play Rose, and while Winslet had been suggested, he was concerned that she was too typecast for the role. "I actually didn't see Kate at first," Cameron said in the video. "She had done a couple of other historical dramas as well, and she was getting a reputation as 'Corset Kate' doing historical stuff." Winslet's previous credits included 1995's Sense and Sensibility and 1996's Jude and Hamlet. The filmmaker explained that he ultimately agreed to meet Winslet despite being concerned that it would appear as "the laziest casting in the world." Despite this, he found her "fantastic," securing her role.

As for DiCaprio, things started off rough. DiCaprio was invited back for a screen test with Winslet (who was already cast) after an initial "hysterical" meeting with the heartthrob actor, during which all the women in the production office suddenly appeared in Cameron's office. Upon arriving, the star of Romeo + Juliet was surprised to discover he'd need to read lines and be filmed with Winslet to assess their chemistry. "He came in, he thought it was another meeting to meet Kate," Cameron described. He recalled telling the two actors, "We'll just run some lines, and I'll video it."


DiCaprio then informed Cameron, "You mean I'm reading?...I don't read," which meant he no longer submitted to auditions for film roles. At that point, he had led several movies and scored an Oscar nomination for What's Eating Gilbert Grape in 1993. Cameron extended his hand to the star and replied with a simple, "Well, thanks for coming by." Following that, the director told DiCaprio how the film would take two years out of his life and how he was "not going to f— it up by making the wrong decision in casting. "So you're going to read, or you're not going to get the part," Cameron told the young actor. Despite his reluctance, DiCaprio submitted. Cameron noted how the actor "lit up" and "became Jack," creating evident chemistry with Winslet. December 19, 1997, marked the release of Titanic, which won 11 Academy Awards, including best director for Cameron.