James Cameron is a veteran of this Hollywood press cycle. He knows that yes you want your film to break even by being one of the highest grossing films of all time, you have to tell some funny and slightly humiliating stories about your former co-workers. And while someone somewhere might be interested in what it was like working with Sam Worthington, it’s nothing compared to what Leonardo DiCaprio was doing around 1996. Heck, this guy was running around with a squad called “The Pussy Posse.”
Still, Leonardo DiCaprio was pretty famous at the time. Titanic turned around, having earned his first Oscar nomination for 1994 What is Gilbert Grape eating in a performance that, for his sake, he will never attempt to replicate. Sure, being a 20-year-old Oscar nominee has its perks, like being in the Pussy Posse, but challenging James Cameron isn’t one of them.
In a retrospective career interview with G.Q. [[[[via Variety], the water path The director shared his first meetings with Leo. “There was a meeting with Leo, and then there was a screen test with Leo,” Cameron said. “The meeting was fun because I’m sitting in my conference room, waiting to meet an actor. And I look around, and all the women from the whole office are in the meeting. Everyone wanted to meet Leo. It was hysterical.”
Cameron set up a screen test because they had just landed Kate Winslet for the role of Rose and, well, this was an expensive movie, so it might be useful to see how they do together. “He came back a couple of days later and I had the camera set up to record the video,” Cameron said. “He didn’t know he was going to do the test. He thought it was another meeting to meet Kate. So I said, ‘Okay, we’ll go in the next room and write a few lines, and I will record it on video. And he said, ‘You mean I’m reading?’ I said yes’. He said, ‘Oh, I don’t read.’ I shook his hand and said, ‘Thank you for coming.’”
“Wait wait wait. If I don’t read, I don’t get the paper? Like this?” Cameron remembered what DiCaprio said.
Oh yeah. Let’s go. This is a giant movie that’s going to take two years of my life, and you’re going to go do five other things while I do post-production. So, I’m not going to screw it up by making the wrong casting decision. So, you’re going to read, or you’re not going to get the part.’
Then he walks in, and it’s like every ounce of his entire being is so negative, until I said, ‘Action.’ He later became Jack. Kate just fired up and they replayed the scene. Dark clouds had parted and a ray of sunlight came down and caught Jack. I’m like, ‘Okay. He is the guy.
This was not Cameron’s only discussion about Titanic stars with G.Q.. Yesterday’s profile with the director explained how he managed to get Kate Winslet back after the “ordeal” of filming Titanic. “I think she had something to prove to herself,” Cameron said. “So, I mean, no extra charge for the therapy, for the healing moment where she was able to hold her breath underwater for seven and a half minutes and be queen underwater.”
Winslet’s time in Titanic It was not for the faint of heart. “I broke a small bone in my elbow,” Winslet told the The Los Angeles Times in 1997“and at one point I had deep bruises all over my arms.”
“[James Cameron is] a nice guy, but the problem was that his vision for the film was as clear as it was,” he says. “He has a temper you wouldn’t believe… As it was, the actors were light-hearted. I think Jim knew he couldn’t yell at us like he did at his team because our performances wouldn’t be good. […] There were times when I was really scared of him.”
But all’s well that ends well. Winslet learned to hold her breath for almost 10 minutes and became the “underwater queen.” May she reign long.