‘Titanic’ adds new dimension, sails to success

Tania Jachens

Before he was known as the undercover Boston cop in “The Departed” or the conflicted dream manipulator in “Inception,” Leonardo DiCaprio was predominantly recognized for his role of screaming “I’m the king of the world!” on the prow of a very large, ill-fated ship.

Before she dyed her hair blue for “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” and won an Oscar for Best Actress in “The Reader,” Kate Winslet was best known for her role as the girl who got PG-13 naked and then wouldn’t share the wooden door after the climactic sinking of the aforementioned ship.

“Titanic” (you may have heard of it) went on to become the most lucrative movie of all time, winning 11 Academy Awards and making DiCaprio and Winslet household names. At the time, they were only 22 and 21, respectively, so I guess I should be celebrating the fact that they both remained functional human beings,  let alone productive and successful actors, after the overwhelming success of “Titanic.”  Yet on the 15th anniversary of the film and the 100th anniversary of the actual ship’s sinking, here’s a look at what they have been up to since the original 1997 “Titanic” release and why DiCaprio just really needs to loosen up.

Since “Titanic,” these two actors have accumulated eight Academy Award nominations collectively (and one win), plus dozens of other American, British and international accolades, making them two of the most venerated heavy-hitters in Hollywood. So why does Winslet seem to be having all the fun?

In every article or interview, Winslet radiates both confidence and charm and demonstrates a wonderfully witty sense of humor. When asked how she and DiCaprio have changed since “Titanic,” she joked, “He’s fatter now, I’m thinner.” After finding out that she had to be naked in front of DiCaprio in the movie, Winslet decided to break the ice when they first met with one of the greatest shows of chutzpah by flashing him. Despite garnering more awards (including an Emmy and Grammy) and nominations than DiCaprio, Winslet still has no problem poking fun at herself and making seemingly silly movies, such as the Christmas chick-flick, “The Holiday” and the animated “Flushed Away.”   She always seems at ease with herself and gamely did publicity for the re-release of “Titanic,” despite cringing at seeing herself in 3D.

While she was considered an up-and-coming movie star before “Titanic” (with an Oscar nomination to show for it), Winslet seems to have taken her fame and renown in better stride than DiCaprio, who always looks as if he’s marching to a death by firing squad while on the red carpet. He was noticeably absent from the premiere for the re-release of “Titanic,” refusing to do any publicity for it, despite previously acknowledging how much it had done for his career-talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth.

This epitomizes how desperate DiCaprio is to be perceived as a serious actor and nothing else. During interviews, he always seems uncomfortable, uptight and guarded, as if worried that he might accidentally smile. Despite being one of the youngest people to ever receive a Best Actor Oscar nomination and starring in the chick-flick “Romeo & Juliet” prior to “Titanic,” DiCaprio was clearly not prepared for the onslaught of attention that came with such great fame. He needs to do a better job hiding the chip on his shoulder caused by “Titanic,” which launched his career, as well as the millions of posters young girls began to hang of him in their lockers and bedrooms. Actors such as Zac Efron and Robert Pattinson have built their entire careers upon rapid female fan bases, so what’s wrong with acknowledging your Leo obsession?  

Instead of being appreciative or laughing it off, Leonardo DiCaprio overcompensates by only accepting Oscar-baiting roles and ignores “Titanic” as if it were an awkward high school yearbook photo, rather than one of the most critically-lauded, successful and popular movies of all time. He is so intent on being taken seriously as an actor that it just comes across as if he’s got a stick shoved up his you-know-what. Don’t worry, Leo-your looks and boyish charm that made you so appealing in “Titanic” have faded with age and your excessive amount of scowling, so no need to worry about this former fan-girl breaking down your door anytime soon.

Interestingly enough, DiCaprio is still good friends with Winslet, but I guess being in the same (literal) boat for over a year of filming will do that. They recently starred together in 2009’s Oscar-nominated “Revolutionary Road,” a dark, angsty story about a 1950s suburban couple, which if you couldn’t tell, is the polar opposite of “Titanic.”  I can imagine DiCaprio during his initial conversation with Winslet, adamantly listing everything that could not be in the film, due to potential “Titanic” connotations, including a boat, an iceberg, nude portraiture or any hint of humor.

Coming up, both DiCaprio and Winslet have several movies in the works, but it’s obvious that their involvement with “Titanic” will never be forgotten. Heck, if you needed any indication of this movie’s staying power, its re-release, 15 years later, made $25 million in its first five days in theaters. As much as DiCaprio deigns to acknowledge his role as the swoon-worthy Jack Dawson, he’s lucky that director James Cameron didn’t go with his initial first choice, Matthew McConaughey.  Now that would have changed things.