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Leonardo DiCaprio had already made a name for himself in the 1990s with the TV series Growing Pains and movies like What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and The Basketball Diaries, but it was Titanic that catapulted him to worldwide fame. As it turns out, we have DiCaprio’s Romeo + Juliet costar Paul Rudd to partially thank for convincing him to take the role of Jack Dawson, as Rudd had learned a lot about the maritime disaster from his father. Rudd recently recalled:
At the time, my father was a Titanic expert and he used to take people all over the world talking about Titanic. He would go to universities. It was my last day of filming on Romeo + Juliet, and we all went out out to bar... I was riding to the place with Leo, and he said, 'I just got offered this movie, and it's a big movie.’ He had done indie films to that point. He said ‘It’s a studio movie, it’s Titanic.’ I said ‘That’s incredible!’ And I knew a lot about Titanic because my dad just talked about Titanic. And we just had a conversation about it. He was saying, 'Well, I don't know what I'll do,' and I remember saying, 'You should do it!’
Obviously it was ultimately Leonardo DiCaprio’s decision to join Titanic and work with the likes of James Cameron, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane and many more, but hearing Paul Rudd’s story on The Graham Norton Show, it sounds like the future Ant-Man star played an integral role towards nudging DiCaprio in the right direction. Rudd heard just enough about the Titanic sinking from his father, Paul Rudd, to fill in DiCaprio in on the historical event while they were on the Romeo + Juliet set and persuade his costar to join the project.
Leonardo DiCaprio might have still been a little ambivalent about boarding Titanic after his conversation with Paul Rudd, but eventually he decided he was game for the movie, and the rest is history. While its success might have initially been doubted due to its ballooning budget and several production delays, to say Titanic was a triumph would be as big an understatement as admitting that the eponymous ship wasn’t unsinkable.
Made off a $200 million budget, Titanic made $1.843 billion worldwide, making it the highest-grossing movie ever until Avatar, another James Cameron release, took the #1 spot over a decade later. Titanic’s 3D re-release in 2012 brought the movie’s worldwide haul to $2.187 billion.
Critically speaking, Titanic received a lot of positive reception and numerous accolades, which included winning 11 Academy Awards and four Golden Globes. Leonardo DiCaprio specifically earned a Golden Globe nomination for his performance, but lost to Peter Fonda for his performance in Ulee’s Gold. Oh well, taking home an MTV Movie Award was surely a nice consolation prize for DiCaprio, right?
As for Paul Rudd, who was best known pre-Romeo + Juliet from the TV series Sisters and movies like Clueless and Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers, he also achieved worldwide fame through a variety of projects, with his notable credits including Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, The 40-Year Old Virgin, I Love You, Man, This is 40 and the Ant-Man movies. He can currently be seen pulling double duty as Miles Elliot and Miles’ clone in the Netflix series Living with Yourself, and he’ll appear next year in Ghostbusters 2020.