Titanic almost starred Matthew McConaughey and Gwyneth Paltrow
A number of big-name stars were considered for the lead roles before Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio were cast.
This weekend, Titanic is being re-released in UK cinemas to mark 25 years since James Cameron's romantic epic first took the world by storm.
Upon its initial release, the film was a monumental success – winning a joint-record 11 Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director, and becoming the highest-grossing film of all time up to that point.
In the quarter of a century since, only two films have surpassed it at the top of that list – Avengers: Endgame and Cameron's own Avatar – while few cinematic images have become more iconic or enduring than that of Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio standing with their arms outstretched on the deck of the doomed ship.
It's interesting, then, to imagine how different the film might have been had some of the original casting decisions gone ahead. Before Winslet and DiCaprio signed on to the film, a number of other big-name actors were considered for the lead parts – with the likes of Jared Leto, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Matthew McConaughey all at one point having been in the conversation.
Read on to find out which other actors were considered for the main roles in Titanic.
Who almost played Rose in Titanic?
James Cameron initially wasn't totally convinced that Kate Winslet was the right actor for the role – in part because she had already done a number of period dramas and developed a reputation as "Corset Kate", as he explained in a recent interview with GQ.
The list of actors he considered for the role of Rose DeWitt Bukater before her is a long one – with the likes of Reese Witherspoon, Winona Ryder, and Claire Danes all having reportedly turned down the chance to star in the film.
More like this
But Gwyneth Paltrow – who is name-dropped by Cameron in the aforementioned GQ interview – is thought to have been especially close to taking on the role. She went on record to discuss this during an interview with Howard Stern in 2015, claiming that she had been "really in contention" for the part and was one of the last two actors standing before she ultimately turned it down.
Asked if she had any regrets, she responded: "I look back at the choices I’ve made and think, ‘Why the hell did I say yes to that? And no to that?’ And you know, you look at the big picture and think: There’s a universal lesson here, what good is it to hold onto roles?”
Who almost played Jack in Titanic?
Prior to DiCaprio's casting, a whole host of stars were considered that Cameron ultimately passed on because he thought they were too old to play the 20-year-old Jack – including Chris O'Donnell, Billy Crudup, and Stephen Dorff. Meanwhile, one of the other stars in contention was Jared Leto – who reportedly refused to audition for the role – while Tom Cruise was briefly considered but ruled out due to his high asking price.
But the two stars who came closest to landing the role before DiCaprio was offered the part are believed to be Matthew McConaughey and Jeremy Sisto, both of whom went so far as to audition alongside Kate Winslet.
"I went and auditioned for that, I wanted that," McConaughey said during an appearance on The Hollywood Reporter's Awards Chatter podcast in 2018. "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."
This wasn't the only part he almost ended up playing in the film, either – he was eventually offered the part of Caledon Hockley, which he declined.
Meanwhile, Sisto said in a 2015 interview with The Huffington Post that he was "a little heartbroken" to have lost out on the role after doing multiple screen tests.
“It’s always fun to see a movie that you know really well and love with this alternate-universe person in there," he said. "So while I was a little embarrassed to reveal one of my many failures in life, at the same time I couldn’t deprive Titanic lovers of seeing that alternate universe.”
The original choice for the role had been River Phoenix, before his tragic death aged 23 in 1993.
Who else almost starred in Titanic?
There are a number of other famous faces who were once considered for parts in the film – for example, Rob Lowe had been very keen on landing the part of Caledon Hockley before it went to Billy Zane, and country singer Reba McEntire turned down the role of Molly Brown, which eventually went to Kathy Bates, due to her touring schedule.
Meanwhile, two very different stars who were both once in the frame for roles in the film are Robert De Niro and Lindsay Lohan.
DeNiro was reportedly offered the role of Captain Smith – eventually played by Bernard Hill – and is said to have turned it down due to the fact he was suffering from a gastrointestinal infection.
And Lohan – who was only 11 at the time of the film's release and had not yet made her big-screen debut – auditioned for the minor role of Cora Cartmell, a young girl travelling on the ship with her father, and reportedly only missed out because her red hair was considered too similar in colour to Kate Winslet's Rose.