The year is 1997 and you, a weeping child, have just been wrecked by a peerless nautical love story: Titanic. You witnessed two young lovers encounter one another on the high seas, dance a spirited jig deep in the bowels of the Ship of Dreams, and do sex inside a stagecoach — only to be ripped apart by an unforeseen iceberg right ahead! Although only one makes it out alive, they ultimately saved one another. It’s a beautiful concept, if not quite so beautiful as when a My So Called Life–era Claire Danes commanded Leonardo DiCaprio: “Draw me like one of your French girls, Jack.” Sorry, what the hell?
Apparently, there was initially “strong interest” in casting Danes as Rose — the role that arguably launched Kate Winslet’s career. On Monday’s installment of the podcast Armchair Expert With Dax Shepard, Danes explained that she turned down the part because she knew she “wasn’t ready” for the level of fame such a steamy romantic saga as Titanic would surely bring. “I had just made this romantic epic with Leo in Mexico City, which is where they were going to shoot Titanic,” Danes said, referring to 1996’s Romeo + Juliet. “It was going to propel me to something I knew I didn’t have the resources to cope with. I knew I had to do a lot of foundation-building.”
Committed Titanic fans may already know this, because Danes has spoken about the decision before. In 2012, she told British GQ that doing another big love story with DiCaprio in such a short span of time felt “redundant.” Just imagine an alternate cinematic reality in which Danes stands at the prow of the ship, flying. Would Danes have made some dang room for Jack on that makeshift door-raft that could probably have accommodated two? Would DiCaprio and Winslet have eventually struck up a storied friendship anyway, albeit at another time, on another set? Wild to think about, and yet somehow less wild than a Jack played by Matthew McConaughey. In a parallel universe, maybe it’s all happening.