Undoubtedly, Titanic played a pivotal role in the early trajectory of Leonardo DiCaprio’s career. While the young actor had already received an Oscar nomination for “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” and enjoyed success with “Romeo + Juliet,” it was his leading role in James Cameron’s monumental oceanic epic that firmly established him as an A-list star.
The palpable chemistry between Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet propelled Titanic to the summit of the highest-grossing movies list, where it remained for over a decade until James Cameron’s another cinematic masterpiece, “Avatar,” claimed the box office throne. This attests to Cameron’s unmatched prowess in the realm of filmmaking.
However, this doesn’t imply that the dynamic between Cameron and DiCaprio on the Titanic set was always harmonious. While it is hailed as one of the greatest movies of all time, Cameron’s uncompromising insistence on numerous takes led to a moment of heated frustration for DiCaprio.
In 2022, Cameron elucidated in an interview with Empire Magazine that he has a steadfast rule on set for his new productions, capping the number of takes for each scene at a maximum of 20. “If you can’t get it in 20 takes, there’s probably something fundamentally wrong with the set-up, so shoot a quick cutaway and move on,” he explained.
However, when it came to Titanic, this principle landed one of the finest directors in a tricky situation with his young lead, particularly during a complex scene. “I remember Leo DiCaprio was outraged when I pulled the plug on a ‘oner’ scene at 20 takes,” recalled Cameron. “We didn’t have it and he couldn’t fathom just moving on. He was more of a perfectionist than I was! I recall we used take three.”
In all fairness, one can empathize with DiCaprio’s perspective. Titanic marked the pinnacle of his career thus far, representing an unprecedented cinematic endeavor, and he naturally wanted to ensure he delivered his absolute best. Yet, crucially, Cameron recognized that at times, he needed to make tough decisions for the greater good of the film. So, in reality, both of them were right in their own way.