The extraordinary role Leonardo DiCaprio regrets turning down

Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights is both a film worthy of cinematic deconstruction and a title open to a comedic ribbing. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, John C. Reilly and Philip Seymour Hoffman, the film is a bonafide cult classic that works as a frenetic examination of the 1970s porn industry.

Arguably Paul Thomas Anderson’s very best film, Boogie Nights is a powerful evaluation of the hedonistic excess of the ’70s, taking us to the trashy world of the emerging adult industry of Southern California.

A favourite film of iconic filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, Anderson’s second feature project featured Mark Wahlberg in an unforgettable lead performance as Eddie Adams, who operates under the alias of Dirk Diggler. Reeking of aftershave and boyish charm, Wahlberg’s performance is a true career classic, with the actor’s sheer ability to shake off all inhibitions to play this character establishing his fate as a bonafide Hollywood star.

Wahlberg’s role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s classic would launch the actor into the Hollywood stratosphere and lead him to such opportunities as David O. Russell’s Three Kings and Martin Scorsese’s The Departed alongside Leonardo DiCaprio. In fact, Wahlberg’s career could’ve easily looked quite different as DiCaprio almost took the Boogie Nights role off the actor’s hands, before turning it down for James Cameron’s Titanic.

Deeply regretting turning the role down in favour of the third highest-grossing film of all time, DiCaprio told ShowbizSpy, “My biggest regret is Boogie Nights. I’m a huge fan of Paul Thomas Anderson but the first time I met him for that role I hadn’t really seen much of his previous work. Now I love that movie”. It’s even something that Anderson himself has addressed on the Bill Simmons podcast, noting “there was no Leo vs. Mark because Leo decided not to do the film” before explaining that Mark Wahlberg was the right call.

It’s hard to feel too sorry for Leonardo DiCaprio however, as the world-famous actor also reached international acclaim after his culturally resonant role in James Cameron’s Titanic. After becoming the highest-grossing film ever at the time, Cameron’s film remains one of the most iconic roles of DiCaprio’s career though strangely it is rumoured that he was ushered into the role by none other than Paul Rudd.

“My father was a Titanic expert and he used to take people all over the world talking about Titanic. He would go to universities,” Rudd said while appearing on The Graham Norton Show.

Rudd explained that after wrapping up the filming for Romeo + Juliet, some members of the cast headed for a drink: “We all went out to the bar…I was riding to the place with Leo, and he said, ‘I just got offered this movie, and it’s a big movie,’” said Rudd. Sensing that DiCaprio was unsure on his decision, Rudd said the news was “incredible” considering DiCaprio had only appeared in indie cinematic roles up until that point.

Rudd remembered: “He was saying, ‘Well, I don’t know what I’ll do,’ and I remember saying, ‘You should do it,’” he said while laughing. “I don’t think I had any say, but it is kind of interesting to think back on that,” he joked.

Whilst it is unlikely Rudd had a role in the acquisition of DiCaprio, it’s certainly nice to believe so.

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