Matthew McConaughey tells the actual story behind his notorious Titanic Audition
In many ways, this is the 1997 feature Titanic was the final old school Hollywood blockbuster that relied on star power and a dramatic storyline to get audiences instead of CGI or brand awareness. The rumors surrounding the making of the film have since reached epic proportions. A long-standing legend was that Matthew McConaughey would play the lead role of Jack Dawson until Leonardo DiCaprio came into the picture. In an interview with Rob Lowe, McConaughey admitted that his audition went so well that he was confident he’d taken on the role.
“So I went to read with Kate Winslet and it wasn’t one of the auditions – they filmed it so it was like screen test time. After we left, it was one of the ones that they followed me on and when we did got outside they said, “That went great.” I mean, kind of like hugs. I really thought it was going to happen. It didn’t. ”
At the time the Titanic was being made, director James Cameron was looking for a charismatic lead to take on the role of Jack. Matthew McConaughey was already an established movie star at this point. But Cameron ultimately decided that the role of Jack needed someone more youthful. It was then that he became aware of a young actor named Leonardo DiCaprio.
Unfortunately, DiCaprio wasn’t interested in going on a big budget romance. Although the young actor had started out in sitcoms, he had already made a name for himself on the indie circuit, with critically acclaimed appearances on Basketball Diaries and What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. DiCaprio had little desire to become part of the blockbuster Hollywood, but his audition scene convinced Cameron, although the actor himself made little effort.
“”[DiCaprio] Read it once and then started playing around and I could never get him to focus on it again. But for a split second a ray of light came down from the sky and illuminated the forest. ”
It’s strange to consider that McConaughey went all-in at his audition, was already an established big movie star and was dying to play Jack, but Cameron turned to DiCaprio, who had little experience with big budget films, instead even less interest in becoming a star.
Even so, Cameron’s instinct cannot be faulted as the film became one of the greatest hits of all time. DiCaprio’s performance proved so overwhelming that “Leomania” became a legitimate pop culture phenomenon and his role as Jack Dawson was drowned out as the most popular character in DiCaprio’s career.
For McConaughey, he was able to recover from his failed Titanic audition and direct a number of critically and commercially successful films. McConaughey and DiCaprio later met on-screen for a brief scene in The Wolf of Wall Street, where McConaughey’s character was mentoring DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort. Perhaps to make up for the time DiCaprio McConaughey was teaching on the landing of a Titanic foreplay.