‘Titanic’ Director Says ‘Diva-Like Attitude’ Almost Cost Leonardo DiCaprio His Iconic Role
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - JANUARY 18: Director James Cameron(C) and actress Kate Winslet(L) and actor Leonardo DiCaprio(R) pose for photographers after Cameron won the award for Best Director for "Titanic" at the 55th Annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton 18 January in Beverly Hills. "Titanic" also won Best Film in the Drama category. (Photo credit should read HAL GARB/AFP via Getty Images)
HAL GARB/AFP via Getty Images

Director James Cameron revealed in a recent interview that Leonardo DiCaprio’s “diva-like attitude” nearly cost him the iconic role of Jack in the 1997 blockbuster “Titanic.”

Cameron, whose newest film — “Avatar: The Way Of Water” — is set to be released in theaters on December 16, spoke with GQ about some of his most famous films. “Titanic,” which smashed box office records and ultimately grossed over $2 billion worldwide, was high on the list — but according to Cameron, things could have been very different.


Cameron explained that his first meeting with DiCaprio actually went very well — although he noted that he was amused by the fact that all of the women associated with the production suddenly had a reason to be in the room for the actor’s first appearance.

“There was a meeting with Leo and there was a screen test with Leo,” Cameron reflected, adding, “So the meeting was funny, because I’m 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, okay, fine. But our accountant? You know, why was she in the meeting?”

Cameron laughed again, saying that he realized as he looked around the room that they had all just wanted to meet DiCaprio.

“So Leo came in — of course, charmed everybody, myself included,” Cameron continued, noting that actress Kate Winslet had already been chosen to play the part of Rose. “And I said, ‘Alright, let’s see what your chemistry’s like with Kate.’”

So DiCaprio was asked to come back for a meeting with Winslet, and he agreed — but when he arrived and Cameron asked him to read with her, the “Romeo + Juliet” star balked.

“He said, ‘You mean I’m reading?’” Cameron recalled. “And I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘Oh, I don’t read.’”

The “Avatar” director’s response was to immediately thank DiCaprio for his time, at which point Cameron said the actor back-pedaled quickly. “He said, ‘Wait, wait, wait. You mean if I don’t read, I don’t get the part? Just like that?’”

Cameron said his reply was simple: “I said, ‘Oh, yeah. Come on. This is, like, a giant movie that’s gonna take two years of my life … so I’m not gonna f*** it up by making the wrong decision in casting. So you’re gonna read, or you’re not gonna get the part.’”

DiCaprio did read, although Cameron said he did so begrudgingly.

“Every ounce of his entire being [was] just so negative, right up until I said, ‘Action!’” Cameron said, but once he uttered that one word, he said DiCaprio “turned into Jack.”

“All right, he’s the guy,” Cameron said, noting that “Kate just lit up” the moment they began reading together.

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