James Cameron Reveals What Really Happened With Matthew McConaughey And Titanic

Matthew McConaughey in Contact
(Image credit: (Warner Bros))

Alright, alright, alright… did you know Matthew McConaughey was once up for the role of Jack Dawson in James Cameron’s 1997 epic Titanic? That’s right: Wolf of Wall Street costars McConaughey and Leonardo DiCaprio, in their early acting days, were both up to paint Rose like one of their French girls... but in the end there could only be one.

When the director recently made an appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, he was asked about what exactly went down when he was tasked with casting Jack and why Leonardo DiCaprio got it over Matthew McConaughey. Explaining himself, apparently the choice had a lot to do with the former's particular magnetism with the opposite sex. Said Cameron,

Matthew read for the part and then we met Leo. Leo came in for an interview and I had this weird thing: I looked around the room and every woman in the building was in the meeting… the accountant was there, the female security guard, so I thought maybe I better cast this guy.

There you have it! While casting for Titanic, James Cameron got a front row seat to a young Leonardo DiCaprio’s appeal to a female audience and couldn’t pass up giving him the job.

At the time of DiCaprio’s audition, he already scored an Oscar nomination at 20 years old for What’s Eating Gilbert Grape, and had already earned a growing following thanks to his performances on the television show Growing Pains, and in movies like The Basketball Diaries and Romeo + Juliet.

McConaughey on the other hand was just starting out, likely only known for his breakout role in Dazed and Confused at the time. He just hadn’t hit “heartthrob” status… yet. Of course a few years later he became a rom-com regular in hits such as The Wedding Planner and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.

Matthew McConaughey spoke out about the bummer back in November 2018, confirming that he had a good audition for Jack with Kate Winslet, and was confident about it, but was never offered the role. Rejection is part of any actor’s journey and McConaughey was not immune to this, even though he found incredible success in the medium with other roles.

It’s an interesting behind-the-scenes bit of info about what could have been, but we can’t imagine anyone other than Leonardo DiCaprio being the Jack to Kate Winslet’s Rose in Titanic. Of course, McConaughey ended up scoring a role in another memorable film from 1997, Contact, alongside Jodie Foster, and that certainly earned him a lot of attention.

In addition to revealing some inside details about Titanic on Jimmy Fallon, James Cameron teased the return of Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator: Dark Fate coming this fall, his planned Avatar sequels, and the Alita: Battle Angel, which he wrote and produced.Take a look at the interview:

The director certainly has a lot of exciting movies coming up. The fact that we are talking about the making of Titanic 22 years later, however, certainly informs how impactful his past work has been over the years. While Matthew McConaughey didn’t end up being part of Titanic, losing out to DiCaprio didn’t hurt the future of his career.

Fans of James Cameron can look forward to Alita in theaters on February 14th, Terminator: Dark Fate on November 1st, and Avatar 2 in December 2020.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.