James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water is opening in three weeks. Promotion for the movie is now underway. He was just featured in a GQ profile that called him the “Box Office King” and also did an interview with them to break down his most iconic films. The first one that comes to mind for most, of course, is Titanic.
When people are calling you the “Box Office King”, it has to be an ego boost. At this point I think it’s well known, the size of James Cameron’s ego. If you weren’t aware of his massive ego reputation, read the GQ piece, that’ll give you some idea. The reason I’m talking about James’s ego is because you have to keep that in mind when you’re considering what he says about Leonardo DiCaprio during his discussion with GQ about casting Leo in Titanic. The video is below, start at the 1:50 mark:
So basically James says that Leo comes in, with a young punk ego, and tells James, who has an even bigger ego, that he doesn’t audition. And James was like, well then close the door behind you because you can’t be in my movie if you don’t read for the part. Basically James wants us to know what a f-cking boss he is and is sharing this story about Leo having a suck attack to puff himself up. Everybody comes out of this looking like a megalomaniac but at least it’s good gossip.
I’m less interested in Leo’s audition though as I am in the part where James reveals that Leo came to him with notes on his character. “My dad and I have been talking about this script and we think it needs this and this and this…”
LOL FOREVER at “my dad and I”. Can you picture it? He would have been maybe 21/22 or so at the time, and no doubt, at this point in his career he’d already delivered some excellent performances, but imagine stepping up to someone as self-important as James and telling him how he and his dad could improve on his script. It’s a dick fight but James here turns it into an opportunity to tell us about how great he is at helping actors shape their performances.
And it is interesting what he says about Leo needing to give his character some kind of “affliction” because it wasn’t enough, Leo didn’t find Jack Dawson interesting enough if Jack wasn’t in some kind of pain. James eventually, according to James at least, was able to convince Leo otherwise and explain to him the challenge of playing a character without baggage. Or maybe it’s that Leo’s character wasn’t actually the main character? That’s what James doesn’t say – probably because he’s focused on making the anecdote about himself – but the main character of Titanic is Rose.
It's Rose who needs to find herself on that boat. It’s Rose who needs to figure out that she wants a life that’s different from what is planned for her. Rose is the character with baggage, Jack is there to drive HER story. And we don’t need Jack to have any baggage for the story to work.
But that was the role that made Leonardo DiCaprio, the superstar. Yes, for sure, he was doing great work prior to Titanic but it is undebatable that Titanic was the gamechanger. It is a huge movie. It is an iconic movie. Everyone has seen this movie, like eight times. Titanic took him to another level. So what’s been the effect of this movie and this character in particular on how Leo has managed his career choices since, in the context of Jack being a secondary role, a role that only exists to service the main female character? Has it ever happened again?
Here's Leo leaving a bar in LA with Tobey Maguire this week.