Why Leonardo DiCaprio Was Chosen Over Matthew McConaughey for ‘Titanic’

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio is considered box office gold. Skyrocketing to stardom after his role as Jack Dawson in the 1997 blockbuster Titanic, DiCaprio went on to win an Academy Award for the 2015 film The Revenant.

While the Oscar winner is grateful for the success of Titanic, DiCaprio had some strong competition for the role including one up-and-coming actor.

Leonardo DiCaprio of 'Titanic'
Leonardo DiCaprio of ‘Titanic’ | CBS via Getty Images

Leonardo DiCaprio becomes a full-fledged star

Now a mega star, DiCaprio admits he had no idea what kind of impact Titanic would have on his career when he took on the part opposite Kate Winslet.

“It was shocking. People said, ‘Do you realize how big of a movie this is?’ I said, ‘Yeah, it’s big. It’s a big movie,’” he told Deadline in 2016. “They’re like, ‘No. No. No, it’s the biggest movie ever,’ and I’m like, ‘Well, what does that mean? So it’s big.’ They’re like, ‘No. No. No, you don’t get it. You don’t understand what this means.’ I thought, okay, great, it made a lot of money, and people are seeing it.”

Parlaying his success from the film into other projects he wanted to pursue, DiCaprio is grateful for what Titanic enabled him to do.

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“I used it as a blessing, to make R-rated, different kinds of movies, to throw the dice a little bit on things I wanted to act in,” The Departed actor explained. “People would want to finance those movies now. I’d never had that, before Titanic. It was always, ‘Can I have this role, please? There’s a low budget movie, will you let me audition for the starring role?'”

Tom Cruise and other top names in consideration

Mission: Impossible star Tom Cruise was interested in the role of Jack Dawson at some point, but his asking price was too high as reported by Vogue. Oscar winner Christian Bale also pursued the part, as well as Chris O’Donnell.

According to Biography, Billy Crudup, Johnny Depp, and Stephen Dorff turned down the role, and Jared Leto refused to audition. One of the more surprising considerations was Clueless actor Jeremy Sisto, who even had a screen test with the film’s lead actress.

“That was one of the many, many jobs I didn’t get,” Sisto said, according to the Huffington Post. “I read with Kate as well as three other actresses. I was just insanely inspired by it and a little heartbroken when the role didn’t come my way.”

Picture Jack Dawson saying ‘Alright alright alright’

Interstellar star Matthew McConaughey was a strong consideration for the role. The actor was in high demand at the time and even read with Winslet for the part.

“I wanted that,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “I auditioned with Kate Winslet. Had a good audition. Walked away from there pretty confident that I had it. I didn’t get it. I never got offered that.” 

In an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, Cameron revealed why he chose DiCaprio over the Dallas Buyer’s Club actor.

“Matthew read for the part and then we met Leo,” the Titanic director said, according to CinemaBlend. “Leo came in for an interview and I had this weird thing: I looked around the room and every woman in the building was in the meeting… the accountant was there, the female security guard, so I thought maybe I better cast this guy.”

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Though DiCaprio landed the role and went onto A-lister fame, McConaughey was able to rise to the same level of stardom.