Director James Cameron has revealed that Leonardo DiCaprio almost didn’t get the part of Jack in Titanic because he didn’t want to audition for the part. James had reportedly told Leonardo, “You’re going to read, or you’re not going to get the part.” (Also read: Arbaaz Khan reveals he gave the first audition of his life for Tanaav: ‘I felt odd but took it as a challenge’)
“I remember there was a meeting with Leo. And then there was a screen test Leo,” said the Avatar: The Way of Water director in a video interview for GQ magazine talking about his filmmaking career. “The meeting was funny because I am sitting in my conference room waiting to meet an actor, right? And I look around and all the women in the entire office are in the meeting, for some reason. Like, there’s a female executive producer, OK, fine. But our accountant? Why was she in the meeting? They all wanted to meet Leo. It was hysterical. I looked around, and I went, ‘I think I already know the answer to the question here.’”
The Academy Award-winning filmmaker said that Leonardo “charmed everyone” in the first meeting itself, including him. Still the question about the screen test was important because the director wanted to see the chemistry between him and actor Kate Winslet, who was already signed to play Rose by then. “He came back a couple of days later, and I had the camera set up to record the video,” James said. “He didn’t know he was going to test. He thought it was another meeting to meet Kate. So I said, ‘Okay, we’ll just go in the next room, and we’ll run some lines and I’ll video it.’ And he said, ‘You mean, I’m reading?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘Oh, I don’t read.’ I shook his hand and said, ‘Thanks for coming by.’”
That is when Leonardo realized that the reading was compulsory. “Wait, wait, wait. You mean, if I don’t read, I don’t get the part just like that.” the actor had asked. James Cameron had then explained to the actor how the film is, “a giant movie that is 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*** it up. I’m making the wrong decision in casting, so you’re gonna read or you’re not gonna get the part.”
All doubts were laid to rest when the director said action, as James Cameron recalled how Leonardo DiCaprio “turned into Jack and Kate just lit up and they went into this whole thing and he played the scene. Dark clouds had opened up, a ray of sun came down and lit up Jack. I’m like, ‘All right, he’s the guy.’”
Titanic would go on to win major critical as well as commercial success, winning eleven Oscars and becoming the highest grossing movie of all time. It now ranks as the third highest-grossing movie with a collection $2.2 billion at the box office.