James Cameron Had to ‘Twist Leonardo DiCaprio’s Arm’ for ‘Titanic’: He Thought Script Was ‘Boring’

"I had to really twist his arm to be in the movie," Cameron recalled.
TITANIC, from left: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, 1997. ph: Merie W. Wallace / TM and Copyright © 20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved. Courtesy: Everett Collection.
©20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection

Leonardo DiCaprio didn’t initially feel the need to be the king of the world.

Titanic” director James Cameron revealed ahead of the film’s 25th-anniversary return to theaters that DiCaprio was initially resistant to lead the 1997 historical epic.

“He didn’t want to do a leading man,” Cameron told People at the Golden Globes. “I had to really twist his arm to be in the movie. He didn’t want to do it. He thought it was boring.”

DiCaprio only “accepted the part” of Titanic stowaway Jack after Cameron “convinced him that it was actually a difficult challenge” of a role.

The “Avatar: The Way of Water” helmer added, “It didn’t surprise me, first of all, that he’s made a lot of authentic choices going forward. And secondly, I never doubted his talent.”

“Titanic” went on to win a record 11 Academy Awards, with DiCaprio’s co-lead Kate Winslet nominated for Best Actress.

Cameron previously revealed that the studio was also resistant to cast DiCaprio and that he had to “fight” to land the future Oscar winner. At one point, the film almost starred Gwyneth Paltrow as Rose and Matthew McConaughey as Jack.

DiCaprio didn’t even want to screen test for the part and told Cameron that he didn’t read for roles in general. Cameron recalled telling DiCaprio at the time (via GQ), “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.”

Cameron continued, “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. 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.'”

The director later added to Deadline, “Leo, the studio didn’t want him; I had to fight for him. Kate really liked him, and then Leonardo decided he didn’t want to make the movie. So then I had to talk him into it. I can’t imagine that film without him and without her.”

“Titanic” is returning to theaters with a special 3D 4K release February 10.

Daily Headlines
Daily Headlines covering Film, TV and more.

By subscribing, I agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

PMC Logo
IndieWire is a part of Penske Media Corporation. © 2023 IndieWire Media, LLC. All Rights Reserved.