It’s an epic blockbuster about a luckless romance and a terrible tragedy, but how old were the two rising stars when they portrayed Jack and Rose in the most popular film of the ‘90s?
At the time of filming Titanic in 1996, teen idol Leonardo DiCaprio was 22 years old, and British born Kate Winslet was 21 years old.
Read on as we reveal how the young actors nabbed their biggest roles at the time in one of the most legendary romance films ever.
After declining to take on a role in Boogie Nights (1997), Leo accepted the job to act in Titanic – a film about star-crossed lovers who fall for each other on the doomed RMS Titanic cruise ship.
At its essence, the role was not so distant from his previous appearance as Romeo in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet (1996) when he was 21 years old. Romeo couldn’t help falling in love with a girl from a forbidden family, and Jack in Titanic fell for a woman of a higher social class.
Winslet scored her first major role on the big screen in 1994’s Heavenly Creatures when she was around 18 years old, before acting in four more films before Titanic.
She had been an obvious favorite for period pieces, having played Marianne Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility, Sue Bridehead in Jude and Ophelia in Hamlet, among others.
Portraying socialite Rose DeWitt Bukater on Titanic was a desire of hers after reading through the script.
“I closed the script, wept floods of tears and said, ‘Right, I’ve absolutely got to be a part of this. No two ways about it.’”
“I just have to do this, and you are really mad if you don’t cast me,” she told director James Cameron after getting him on the phone.
Filmed in 1996, the movie came out in 1997 and instantly took over the world.
It became the third film in history to win 11 Academy Awards at the Oscars. Other than winning Best Picture at the ‘98 ceremony, it also received a Best Actress nomination for Winslet.
In September 2017, on the 20th anniversary of Titanic, Kate appeared on talk show Good Morning America and reminisced on her time in the film.
“I had, and I remember it very clearly because of how much cake I ate, that I had my twenty-first birthday on that film, and Leo had his twenty-second birthday.”
A Whole New Level of Superstardom
Before his major role in Titanic, Leo had already reached star-status, having appeared alongside Johnny Depp in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape in 1993 at 19 years of age.
On the back of his nominations, Leo kept going strong with main parts in The Basketball Diaries in ‘95 and Romeo + Juliet in ‘96. He also acted in Marvin’s Room in ‘96, where his talents were widely well-received, as affirmed by Entertainment Weekly in December that year:
“The deeply gifted DiCaprio, meanwhile, keeps right up with these older pros. The three are so full-bodied and so powerfully affecting that you’re carried along on the pleasure of being in the presence of their extraordinary talent.”
Once Titanic was released, at just 22 years old, Leo reached a level a stardom that he had never experienced before.
Winslet’s Biggest Platform
Despite her eagerness to get the part as Rose, Winslet was not too keen on the huge level of fame she garnered from the role.
She did not see the film success as an opportunity for a larger salary, wanting to slow down.
“The point was I could choose. That was the luxury Titanic afforded me. There was tremendous pressure on me to do something ‘big’, but I ducked it all. 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.”