"Titanic" produced so many iconic scenes and lines, but there was one particularly memorable moment in the 1997 blockbuster that star Leonardo DiCaprio wasn’t thrilled about.
In a new interview with BBC’s "Movies That Made Me," James Cameron opens up about DiCaprio's memorable “I’m the king of the world,” line, which the director went on to shout in cringing fashion at the 1998 Oscars.
"The way he sells it, yes. Apparently, that’s the difference between myself and Leonardo, he was able to sell the line,” Cameron teases, referencing the backlash he got for quoting his own film while accepting the Oscar.
The real story is that this wasn’t the original line that was set for the scene when DiCaprio’s Jack and his pal, Fabrizio (Danny Nucci), are at the bow of the Titanic cruise liner.
“It was made up on the spot. I was in a crane basket, and we were losing the light. I had tried this and we had tried that, tried this line and that line and it was just coming up snake eyes,” Cameron reveals. "And I said, ‘Alright, I’ve got one for you. Just say, 'I’m the king of the world,' and just spread your arms out wide and just be in the moment and just love it and just celebrate it and love it.’ And he goes, ‘What?’”
Cameron conveys that DiCaprio wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about the improvised line, noting, "I’m getting this over the walkie talkie. ‘I’m the king of the world,' just say, 'I’m the king of the world,' but you’ve got to sell it!’ And he goes, ‘What?!’ I said, ‘Just f---ing sell it.’”
Ultimately, DiCaprio was able to pull off the line, which may have been due in part to the conditions the scene required.
Speaking to Vanity Fair, Nucci, who was also in the scene, described just how miserable it was to film.
“Leo and I would go on a construction lift, and it would drop us off at the top, and then the lift would go away so that it wasn’t seen during filming. We were trapped on this little tower with our set coats so that we wouldn’t freeze,” Nucci noted. "We were up there for hours because you would have to bring the lift back in, take it up, and then have us go down. So we were basically trapped up there. It was one of the most hysterical experiences. All I remember is we were very hungry. And at some point we both had to pee terribly and there’s no like, ‘Yeah, can we get the lift back in so that we can go to the restroom?’ There was none of that.”