Leonardo DiCaprio's Attitude Nearly Cost Him Famous Titanic Role

The movie "Titanic" didn't suffer the same fate as its namesake when it hit theaters. Its elaborate sets, impeccably designed costumes, and expert direction undoubtedly contributed to its success, but as noted by NPR podcaster Aisha Harris, the spellbinding chemistry of its leads, Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, might really be what buoyed it at the box office.

A quarter of a century after the movie's premiere, it's hard to imagine anyone else declaring himself "king of the world" or letting go of that door — sob! DiCaprio was the undisputed king of the teen heartthrobs at the time, thanks to his role as another tragic figure in "Romeo + Juliet," but he faced some stiff competition for the "Titanic" lead. Ethan Hawke also auditioned for the role, and after witnessing DiCaprio mania firsthand, he told The Telegraph, "I went to myself: 'Wow man, I'm glad I didn't get that part.' But you know, secretly, I couldn't help thinking that if I had got it maybe I could have lived exactly the life I wanted to.'" 

Rom-com mainstay Matthew McConaughey was another actor who wanted to sink into the inky depths as artist Jack Dawson, and he told The Hollywood Reporter that he even scored an audition with Winslet. "Walked away from there pretty confident that I had it. I didn't get it," he said. During the audition process, DiCaprio almost played the role of his own personal iceberg by sinking his chances of starring in the movie.

Leonardo DiCaprio didn't want to do a chemistry reading with Kate Winslet

According to "Titanic" director James Cameron, every woman who worked with him found an excuse to be in the room when he met Leonardo DiCaprio for the first time. "It was hysterical," Cameron told GQ. But what Cameron didn't find funny was DiCaprio's behavior when he came in for a screen test. 

DiCaprio mistakenly believed that he was there to meet with Kate Winslet again, so he was taken aback when Cameron told him that he was going to film the two actors in action. "He said, 'Oh, I don't read,'" Cameron recalled to GQ. "I shook his hand. I said, 'Well, thanks for coming by.'" The director said that DiCaprio seemed dumbfounded by the idea that he couldn't secure the role without doing the chemistry read, but Cameron explained to the actor, "This is a giant movie ... I'm not gonna f*** it up by making the wrong decision in casting." DiCaprio relented, and after he begrudgingly began reading with Winslet, Cameron knew he'd found his Jack Dawson.

Winslet was also instrumental in getting DiCaprio to play her on-screen love interest. When he was having second thoughts about starring in "Titanic," she cornered him at the Cannes Film Festival. "I was thinking, 'I'm going to persuade him to do this, because I'm not doing it without him, and that's all there is to it,'" she told Rolling Stone. "'I will have him.' Because he is f***ing brilliant."