Leonardo DiCaprio's History Of Overconfidence Almost Cost Him Millions

Leonardo DiCaprio has starred in a lot of memorable movies since "Titanic" (1997) — "Catch Me If You Can" (2002), "The Wolf of Wall Street" (2013), and "The Revenant" (2016) being just a few — but it's hard to separate the actor from his iconic role in the James Cameron film. The historical romance movie is timeless and the chemistry between the two leads, DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, is effortless. Perhaps this is why it'll remain a well-loved classic in most people's minds. 

"Titanic," which celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2023, was nominated 14 times and won 11 Academy Awards, but Leonardo DiCaprio apparently almost lost his opportunity to portray the character of Jack Dawson. In a GQ interview talking about his most iconic films, director James Cameron shared that he had quite the challenge dealing with an overconfident Leo during the screen test. 

Leonardo DiCaprio, who was named after another famous Leo, had been surprised that he'd have to read lines in order to get the part, according to Cameron. Recollecting the experience, he told GQ, "So Leo came in and of course, charmed everybody, myself included, and I said, 'All right. Well let's see what your chemistry is like with Kate.'" The role of Rose DeWitt Bukater in the movie had already been cast, although Cameron had initially wanted someone like Gwyneth Paltrow for the part. The director was quickly won over, however, when he met Winslet. "She was fantastic." 

The second meeting was when things went wrong

When Leonardo DiCaprio came in for his second meeting, the actor had assumed that he was going to meet with his co-star, Kate Winslet. "He comes in a couple days later and I've got the camera set up to record the video. He didn't know he was going to test. He came in, he thought it was another meeting to meet Kate. And I said, 'Okay, so we'll just go in the next room, and we'll run some lines and I'll video it,'" James Cameron told GQ. The actor had responded with, "You mean I'm reading?" Once Cameron had told him he had to read, Dicaprio had simply replied, "Oh, I don't read." 

The director had then shook hands with the young actor and said, "Well, thanks for coming by," which seemed to put things in perspective for DiCaprio. 

Cameron continued, "He (Leo) said, 'Wait, wait, wait. You mean if I don't read, I don't get the part. Just like that?'" The director had to bring the actor's overconfidence down a notch with his response. "And I said, 'Oh yeah. Come on. This is like a giant movie. It's going to take two years of my life and you'll be gone doing five other things, while I'm doing post-production and all the model work and everything, so I'm not going to f**k it up by making the wrong decision in casting. So you're gonna read or you're not gonna get the part." 

When Leonardo DiCaprio finally did the screen test, there was magic

Getting the actor to read his lines may have taken a slightly odd turn, but when he eventually did the scene with his future co-star, James Cameron recalled knowing then and there that he was the man for the job. The on-screen relationship between Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet was palpable. 

The director shared with GQ, "He comes in and he's like, every ounce of his entire being is just so negative right up until I said, 'Action.' And then he turned into Jack. And Kate just lit up and they went into this whole thing, and he 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.'"

DiCaprio's overconfidence may have almost ruined his chances of being a part of the iconic film, but the actor told Access Hollywood that he was apprehensive about doing a big film like "Titanic," and preferred smaller projects. His reservation came from his idea that big movies focused mainly on special effects over content. He shared, "I didn't want to discriminate against this movie just because it was huge because it was a terrific script. It was a great character and overall, it had a lot of important things in a movie." DiCaprio's newest role is that of Ernest Burkhart in the Martin Scorsese film "Killers of the Flower Moon," set to release in October 2023.