James Cameron, writer-director-producer of best picture Oscar winner “Titanic” (1997), has again denied a claim perennially put forth by fans: that there was room for Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) to climb aboard the floating door holding Rose (Kate Winslet) and avoid death by hypothermia following the shipwreck in the North Atlantic.
Stating that “it says on page 147 [of the script] that Jack dies,” Cameron, 63, told Vanity Fair, “Obviously it was an artistic choice, [that] the thing was just big enough to hold her, and not big enough to hold him.” Finding it “silly, really, that we’re having this discussion 20 years later,” the filmmaker pointed out that, “Had he lived, the ending of the film would have been meaningless. . . . So whether it was that, or whether a smokestack fell on him, he was going down.”
He added he believed the physics were correct as well. “I was in the water with the piece of wood putting people on it for about two days getting it exactly buoyant enough so that it would support one person with full free-board, meaning that she wasn’t immersed at all in the 28 degree water, so that she could survive the three hours it took until the rescue ship got there. . . . And we very, very finely tuned it to be exactly what you see in the movie because I believed at the time, and still do, that that’s what it would have taken for one person to survive.”
Winslet and fellow “Titanic” star Kathy Bates suggest otherwise, with Bates at the SAG AFTRA Foundation 2nd Annual Patron of the Artists Awards on Nov. 9 introducing Winslet by saying, “He lets go of her hand and sinks into the depth of the Atlantic. And I personally think that there was plenty of room on there!” Winslet agreed, telling the audience lightheartedly, “He could have fit on it! He could have fit on that door!” She similarly said on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” in February 2016 that Jack “could have actually fitted on that bit of door.”
As far back as 2012, Cameron told IGN.com, “It’s not a question of room, it’s a question of buoyancy. . . . It’s clear that there’s really only enough buoyancy available for one person. . . . She’s completely out of the water on the raft, and . . . if he got on with her, they’d both be half in and half out of the water . . . and they would have both died” of hypothermia.
As well, he had told The Daily Beast in January, “You read page 147 of the script and it says, ‘Jack gets off the board and gives his place to her so that she can survive.’ It’s that simple.”
Referring to a 2012 episode of Discovery’s “MythBusters” in which he gamely guest-starred, Cameron told the website, “You’re Jack, you’re in water that’s 28 degrees, your brain is starting to get hypothermia. ‘MythBusters’ asks you to now go take off your life vest, take hers off, swim underneath this thing, attach it in some way that it won’t just wash out two minutes later — which means you’re underwater tying this thing on in 28-degree water, and that’s going to take you five to 10 minutes, so by the time you come back up you’re already dead. So that wouldn’t work. His best choice was to keep his upper body out of the water and hope to get pulled out by a boat or something before he died.”
On the episode itself, he told hosts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, “The script says Jack died. He has to die. So maybe we screwed up and the board should have been a little tiny bit smaller, but the dude’s goin’ down.”