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Leonardo Dicaprio skyrocketed to fame after his role in Titanic. The James Cameron film was a box office smash and led to Dicaprio becoming a global superstar. However, the actor faced a tough decision between Titanic and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights. Dicaprio ended up choosing Titanic and the rest is history. 

‘Boogie Nights’ is one of Paul Thomas Anderson’s most acclaimed films

Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet star in Titanic.
Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet in ‘Titanic’ | CBS via Getty Images

Anderson is a director and screenwriter who is tremendously successful. His movies are always very different from one another, but they always end up receiving great reviews. His second movie, Boogie Nights, stars Mark Wahlberg as Eddie Adams who goes from being a nightclub dishwasher in Los Angeles to a famous pornstar named Dirk Diggler. It features a stacked cast that includes John C. Reilly, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, Heather Graham, William H. Macy, and Don Cheadle. 

Boogie Nights was nominated for three Academy Awards including Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress for Moore, and Best Supporting Actor for Reynolds. While the film would have been a good career step for Dicaprio, it doesn’t compare to the box office behemoth that is Titanic

Leonardo Dicaprio turned down ‘Boogie Nights’ for ‘Titanic’

Dicaprio became a huge star during the 1990s and was heavily sought after in his young career. He was even considered to play Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels. His breakout came with his performance in Titanic, but Anderson says he almost starred in Boogie Nights. In an interview with the Smartless podcast, Anderson confirmed that Dicaprio struggled to choose between Boogie Nights and Titanic

“That is very true that I asked Leo to be in Boogie Nights, and he spent many, many months agonizing and debating about it,” Anderson said. “Ultimately, what I came to realize, about halfway into that long decision-making process, is that he had a choice to make—either to do Titanic or to do Boogie Nights, and he chose to do Titanic. Which, in the long run, catapulted him into this massive worldwide fame, but on the other hand, I think possibly—we laugh about it now—but he regrets missing the experience and doing it.”

Choosing ‘Titanic’ benefitted both Leonardo Dicaprio and Mark Wahlberg


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According to Screenrant, Dicaprio “supposedly recommended Wahlberg” for the lead role in Boogie Nights. The two had previously worked together on The Basketball Diaries. However, at that point in his career, Wahlberg was mostly associated with being the lead member of the hip-hop group, Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch. Boogie Nights proved that he is a strong dramatic actor and he is now a massive movie star. 

For Dicaprio, Titanic led to many becoming obsessed with the young actor. His role as the lovestruck, Jack, made him a heartthrob within pop culture. Dicaprio had already proven to be an excellent actor after his Best Supporting Actor nomination for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Now, everyone knew his name and wanted to watch everything he was in. 

To this day, Titanic is still the third highest-grossing film worldwide. The only films that have been able to top it are Avengers: Endgame and Avatar. Titanic won 11 Oscars at the 70th Academy Awards including Best Film Editing, Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects, Best Original Song, Best Original Dramatic Score, Best Directing, and Best Picture.