Leonardo DiCaprio Almost Passed Up One of His Most Iconic Roles Because of His Bad Attitude
Leo was a total diva during the audition process for an Oscar-winning movie, and almost didn't get the part.
The face behind one of the most iconic film roles of the 1990s could have been very different if it had played by someone other than Leonardo DiCaprio.
And according to Oscar-winning director James Cameron, who cast Leo as the boyish Jack Dawson in the 1997 film Titanic, it almost was the case.
“I am sitting in my conference room, waiting to meet an actor,” Cameron recounted, in a recent video for GQ. “And I look around, and all the women in the entire office are in the meeting. They all wanted to meet Leo. It was hysterical.”
DiCaprio did one screen test with the producers which went well — but when he was asked to come back to audition with a followup screen test with future co-star Kate Winslet, his diva-mode went into overdrive.
“He came back a couple of days later, and I had the camera set up to record the video,” Cameron recalled in the video. “He didn’t know he was going to test.”
“So I said, ‘Okay, we’ll just go in the next room, and we’ll run some lines and I’ll video it,'” he continued. “And he said, ‘You mean, I’m reading?…Oh, I don’t read.'”
Having worked with one of the biggest names — and literally biggest in terms of muscle mass — in Hollywood at the time (Arnold Schwarzenegger ring a bell?), Cameron was not about DiCaprio’s entitled attitude.
“I shook his hand and said, ‘Thanks for coming by,’” Cameron responded, to which a shocked DiCaprio replied, “’Wait, wait, wait. If I don’t read, I don’t get the part? Just like that?'”
Prior to Titanic, Cameron had gotten famous from previously directing blockbuster hits such as Terminator and Aliens. He wasn’t going to let a little bad behavior get in the way of making what would become his first Oscar sweep.
“This 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,’” Cameron explained. “‘So, I’m 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 then describes a pouty DiCaprio bringing some serious negative vibes to the room before the director called, “Action!” It was only then that the future Jack came out of his temper tantrum and nailed the role, proving he could morph into any character even if he was personally acting like a baby.
“Kate just lit up, and they played the scene,” Cameron continued. “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 award-winning director also admitted he almost cast Gwyneth Paltrow as Rose, which likely would have made the film very different as well.
It’d be over 12 years before Cameron would come back behind the camera to direct the legendary Avatar series, but he recalls other memories from his time on the Titanic with fondness.
As for our 13-year old former selves, we’re grateful Leo sucked it up and did the screen test. We couldn’t imagine “I’m king of the world!” being shouted on the bow of a ship by anyone else.