James Cameron Recalls Almost Losing Leo DiCaprio In Titanic

Would Titanic have been the same without Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack?

James Cameron is a filmmaker with many beloved projects, who is known for pushing the limits of what film and visual/practical effects are capable of. One of his most iconic movies is definitely Titanic, which was a sensation that became the highest grossing films of all time. It also made a megastar of Leonardo DiCaprio, although Cameron recently recalled almost losing him for Titanic, saying “you change one element and it doesn’t work.” Could we have gotten another king of the world?

Titanic was released back in 1997, when Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet were still young stars in Hollywood. But casting this pair wasn’t always a sure thing, namely because the Romeo + Juliet actor wasn’t sure he wanted to take on his most iconic role. James Cameron spoke to Deadline about this process, sharing:

So I look back and I see — I’m constantly struck by how fragile the whole thing is, how many places it could have failed and blown up along the line, you know? And I think about that casting Leonardo [DiCaprio] and Kate [Winslet] in Titanic. Leo, the studio didn’t want him; I had to fight for him. Kate Treally liked him. And then Leonardo decided he didn’t want to make the movie. So then I had to talk him into it. You think at any one of those places, if that had really kind of frayed apart, it would have been somebody else and it wouldn’t have been that film. And I can’t imagine that film without him and without her. So there’s a fragility to the whole process, there’s a fragility to success. You change one element and it doesn’t work.

Some points were made. The wild success of Titanic was partly thanks to the movie’s pair of stars, and how they were able to bring their characters and the primary love story to life throughout its sweeping 3+ hour runtime. Luckily they were able to convince Leonardo DiCaprio to play Jack Dawson, and the rest is history. Alexa, play Celine Dion.

James Cameron’s comments to Deadline about Titanic come as he was promoting the highly anticipated release of Avatar: The Way of Water. That new blockbuster includes a set piece with a sinking ship, which feels delightfully akin to his work with Kate Winslet and Leo DiCaprio on Titanic. The filmmaker has once again reunited with Winslet in the movie, who plays a new Na’vi character named Ronal. And as such, they’ve been able to do quite a bit of reminiscing about working together back in the ‘90s.

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)
While he was originally unsure about joining the project, Leonardo DiCaprio would go on to give a truly legendary performance in Titanic, although he was snubbed by the Academy and didn’t get an Oscar nom. Regardless, the movie has remained part of pop culture, with various lines of dialogue still regularly being quoted. In fact, it was recently made into a spoof Off-Broadway musical called Titanique, which has been hugely successful.

Since Titanic, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet were able to reunite and work on another movie in the form of Sam Mendes’ 2008 drama Revolutionary Road. The pair have also regularly been asked about whether or not Jack and Rose could both fit on the door in Titanic, with Cameron even putting the question to science recently. Overall it’s hard to imagine anyone besides DiCaprio as the movie’s leading man.

Avatar: The Way of Water is in theaters now. Be sure to check out the 2023 movie release dates to plan your trips to the theater in the New Year. As for Leonardo DiCaprio, he’s got a number of exciting projects coming down the line including Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon and some movies he’s producing.


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