Gwyneth Paltrow Turned Down ‘Titanic’ and Missed Out on $2 Million: ‘My Mother Will Kill Me’

Titanic was the most epic blockbuster of its time. When the movie came out in 1997, fans fell in love, leading to more than $2 billion in worldwide profits. Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio made the perfect pair.

Rose and Jack became infamously star-crossed lovers, on par with Romeo and Juliet. Titanic likely wouldn’t have been the same with any other leads, but fans may be surprised to learn that there were quite a few actors and actresses in line to play Rose and Jack before Winslet and DiCaprio.

One of them, Gwyneth Paltrow, kind of regrets turning down the role

Gwyneth Paltrow was perfectly poised to play Rose in ‘Titanic’ 

Gwyneth Paltrow
Gwyneth Paltrow | Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

Paltrow was already a household name by the time James Cameron was ready to cast Titanic. She was born into the entertainment industry. Her mother was an actress, and her father Bruce was a producer. She had already worked on a good number of movies, but when the role of Titanic came around, she said no.

She’s still not sure why, and according to a conversation she had with Howard Stern, she kind of regrets it, but tries not to dwell on the past.

“I look back at the choices I’ve made and think, ‘Why the hell did I say yes to that? And no to that?’ And you know, you look at the big picture and think: There’s a universal lesson here. What good is it to hold onto roles?”

Even actors with bit parts are still making money from ‘Titanic’ residual

Cash is probably the main reason Paltrow regrets not taking the part of Rose. Titanic made a lot of money, and the stars all got a piece. It’s still earning today, and even actors with bit parts are making money. 

Anyone who had a line in Titanic is entitled to residual payments any time it is reproduced. That means actors get money when it appears on TV, as well as a cut of the DVD sales. One child actor who was 5 years old at the time Titanic was filmed is still making a few hundred a year. Reece Thompson had one line and barely thinks about the movie anymore, but the checks keep coming.

When there are special events, his cut is even bigger. If Thompson is making between $200 and $300 a year for his one line, Winslet and DiCaprio are getting much bigger pieces of the pie.  

Gwyneth Paltrow wasn’t the only actress to turn down the part of Rose 

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Claire Danes also said no to Cameron when he asked her to play the part of Rose, but she knows exactly why she turned down the part. According to Danes, she didn’t want to do two back-to-back movies with DiCaprio.

Their Romeo and Juliet remake came out the year before Titanic, and Danes didn’t want to associate herself too closely with any one on-screen partner, even if it was DiCaprio.

The role of Jack almost went to Matthew McConaughey, but Winslet wasn’t about to let that happen. When she landed the part of Rose, she insisted DiCaprio play Jack.

She even claims she stalked him at the Cannes Film Festival to convince him to take the part. Her instincts were spot on. DiCaprio was the perfect choice for the part, and Titanic would end up launching DiCaprio’s career. He was initially reluctant to take the part. DiCaprio felt that the role of Jack would pigeonhole him as a Hollywood heartthrob.

He had his sights set on being a dramatic actor, and didn’t want to limit himself. But Titanic ended up winning Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and even though Jack was definitely a heartthrob, the role solidified DiCaprio as a serious actor.