In a parallel timeline, Matthew McConaughey’s most indelible line is not “Alright, alright, alright,” but instead, “I’m the king of the world!!!!!! Whooo-hooo-hooo!!! Yee-haw! Awoooo!!!” As McConaughey explains in a new interview with the Hollywood Reporter’s podcast Awards Chatter—he most recently appeared in the biographical drama White Boy Rick, which premiered in September—he auditioned for Titanic; he really wanted it; he didn’t get it.
To recap: After Dazed and Confused, McConaughey’s career was ascendant. He earned parts in Angels in the Outfield, a Texas Chainsaw Massacre sequel (in which he repeated his now-catchphrase), and A Time to Kill, while Leonardo DiCaprio was doing What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Romeo + Juliet. McConaughey was then up for the role of Jack Dawson, he tells THR: “I went and auditioned for that. I wanted that,” he says. He even auditioned opposite Kate Winslet, who would go on to play Rose DeWitt Bukater. “Had a good audition, walked away from there pretty confident that I had it,” he recalls. But, sort of like post-exam anxiety, post-audition impressions can be deceiving: “I didn’t get it. Never got offered that,” he says.
Winslet can vouch for this, obviously. She first told this story on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert a year ago, hinting at what could have been: “I auditioned with Matthew, isn’t that weird?” she said at the time.
But somehow, it feels right—based on their subsequent respective career trajectories—that McConaughey’s most iconic early role was in Dazed and Confused and DiCaprio’s was in Titanic. After all, imagine if Gal Gadot had been cast as Mad Max: Fury Road’s Furiosa, or the other Hemsworth as Thor, or Jennifer Lawrence as Alice in Alice in Wonderland, in lieu of Mia Wasikowska. Or, even more aptly, where would Justin Timberlake be if Jonah Hill had gotten the role of Sean Parker in The Social Network?