In 1997, a movie burst onto movie theaters that would reign as the highest-grossing movie of all time for a solid twelve years. It starred a young cast, opulent period costumes, and special effects that tallied into the millions of dollars. Its name was Titanic, and it was director James Cameron's magnum opus. It was also the film that would launch two very hot, very young things to superstardom – Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio.
Both actors had varying levels of success before starring in the romantic disaster movie. In fact, Leonardo DiCaprio, Hollywood born and bred, had been acting since childhood.
He’d starred in such movies as Critters 3, This Boy’s Life, What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, The Basketball Diaries and Romeo + Juliet well before sipping at the waters of international stardom with Titanic.
Kate Winslet had also had a substantial acting career beforehand, though hers wasn't as robust as DiCaprio's.
Winslet had starred in Heavenly Creatures and Sense and Sensibility – the film for which she received her first BAFTA award. She would win two more BAFTA awards after Titanic, as well as one Academy Award for her part in the prestige film The Reader.
After both acted in Titanic, however, their careers were secured.
DiCaprio would go on to star in several commercially and critically successful films and win several awards, including one Oscar, one BAFTA, one Screen Actors Guild award, and three Golden Globes all the while pursuing a side gig as a confirmed modelizer.
Winslet, on the other hand, did not do big films in the years immediately following Titanic.
“There was tremendous pressure on me to do something ‘big’, but I ducked it all,” Winslet said in an interview with The Guardian. “I had to. If I hadn’t, I would have burned out by the age of 25. So I ran a mile – back to where I felt safe again.”
This didn’t mean Winslet remained in small roles forever. She came back in a big way, starring in such heavy-hitters as All the King’s Men, The Holiday, Revolutionary Road, and The Reader – the film for which she won an Oscar.
Despite DiCaprio and Winslet's visible chemistry, and the accolades that flooded the pair in the wake of Titanic's release, Winslet wasn't Cameron's first choice for Rose, however.
He reportedly preferred Claire Danes, Gabrielle Anwar, or Gwyneth Paltrow, but Winslet pleaded with him to pick her.
“You don’t understand! I am Rose!” Winslet said to him. “I don’t know why you’re even seeing anyone else!”
Impressed by her persistence, he cast her.
His choice for the character of Jack, however, was not so easy.