Leonardo Dicaprio Didn’t Want To Star in ‘Titanic’ Initially

It’s hard to imagine a world where anyone other than Leonardo DiCaprio would play Jack Dawson in Titanic. Who else could perfectly capture the boyish charm of the free-spirited artist? And who other than DiCaprio could have such overwhelming chemistry with his real-life best friend, Kate Winslet? Yet, believe it or not, the oscar-winning actor was very hesitant to accept his role in James Cameron’s film. It took a lot of convincing for DiCaprio to finally accept the role of which he is most famous for. 

Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt at an event on September 15, 1995
Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt at an event on September 15, 1995 | Patrick McMullan/Getty Images

Leonardo DiCaprio wasn’t the only star who was looked at for the role of Jack Dawson

As it turns out, several other A-list actors were considered for the romantic lead in Titanic. Some of these actors include Matthew McConaughey, Christian Bale, Brad Pitt, River Phoenix, and Johnny Depp. While McConaughey and Bale were distraught over the fact that they didn’t get cast in the role, Depp seemingly had no interest in starring in Cameron’s film.

RELATED: Kate Winslet Calls Leonardo Dicaprio Her ‘Closest Friend in the World’

According to Depp, he found the script to be way too “laboring,” and he could barely get past the first act without losing his patience. (Perhaps if Tim Burton directed it as opposed to Cameron, things would be different.)

During the time of casting, DiCaprio was in his early 20s and was best known for his roles in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape as well as Romeo + Juliet. With his brilliant acting chops and overwhelming charisma as Romeo, he seemed like the perfect candidate for the role of Jack Dawson. But DiCaprio wasn’t so sure taking on the leading role in Cameron’s film would be the best option for him.

Leonardo DiCaprio didn’t want to be seen as a heartthrob

Leonardo DiCaprio
Leonardo DiCaprio | Barry King/WireImage

While DiCaprio was starring in the TV sitcom Growing Pains, he was seen nationwide as a blue-eyed heartthrob with great hair, as opposed to a respectable actor. This wasn’t something that DiCaprio felt comfortable with, and he worked incredibly hard to gain respect in the industry.

After starring in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, he proved to the world how brilliant he can be as a dramatic actor. So when the opportunity for Titanic came along, DiCaprio worried he would resort back into “heartthrob” status. Yet luckily, he had castmates and crew members who would persuade him to take on the iconic role.

The producer of ‘Titanic’ was able to convince DiCaprio to play Jack

According to W Magazine, DiCaprio wanted to tackle roles with deeply flawed and complex characters. So the idea of playing Jack, this happy-go-lucky romantic, almost seemed “too easy” for DiCaprio. That is, until his producer, Rae Sanchini, convinced him otherwise. She persuaded the actor by telling him,

“When you think about it, Jack is the purest of heart. We meet him, and he’s not conflicted,” says Sanchini. “He knows exactly who he is. Jack knows his place in the world. He’s fearless…he falls in love, but he doesn’t change as a person…He makes his choice to die for the woman he loves, and he’s at peace with that.” That’s when DiCaprio finally realized that, according to W Magazine, “playing a character like Jack, who doesn’t have any obvious stuff to hide behind…was a challenge in and of itself.” 

Kate Winslet also played a big part in convincing DiCaprio to take on the role. According to Rolling Stone, she hounded her co-star into accepting the part. She says,

“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. I will have him.’ Because he is f***ing brilliant. He’s a f***ing genius, and that was absolutely why.”