Titanic: DiCaprio Refused Screen Test, So James Cameron Told Him: ‘You’re Going to Read, Or You’re Not’ Getting Hired

titanic
20th Century Fox Film Corp.
DiCaprio Titantic audition process wasn’t smooth, according to director James Cameron. The Oscar-winning filmmaker participated in career retrospective video interview for GQ magazine and recalled how DiCaprio originally refused to read for the part of Jack opposite Kate Winslet during a screen test. Cameron told the young actor: “You’re going to read, or you’re not going to get the part.”

“There was a meeting with Leo and then there was a screen test with Leo,” Cameron said. “The meeting was funny because I am sitting in my conference room, waiting to meet an actor. 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.”

“He came back a couple of days later, and I had the camera set up to record the video,” Cameron said. “He didn’t know he was going to test. He thought it was another meeting with 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.’”

Cameron was ready to turn away DiCaprio, but the actor came back to him and said, “Wait, wait, wait. If I don’t read, I don’t get the part? Just like that?” Cameron responded, “Oh, yeah. Come on. 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. So, I’m not going to fuck it up by making the wrong decision in casting. So, you’re going to read, or you’re not going to get the part.’”

“So he comes in, and he’s like every ounce of his entire being is just so negative — right up until I said, ‘Action.’ Then he turned into Jack,” Cameron concluded. “Kate just lit up, and they played the scene. 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.’”

Bolstered by DiCaprio and Winslet’s chemistry, Titanic would go on to become the highest grossing movie of all time during its run.

The film now ranks as the third highest-grossing title with $2.2 billion at the box office, unadjusted for inflation.

Nonetheless, DiCaprio was disappointed when the Academy neglected to nominate him for Best Actor Oscar, while showering the film with many nods, including Best Actress for Winslet.

Watch Cameron’s full video interview with GQ magazine below.