James Cameron’s Titanic turns 20 years old this year, and it’s coming back to theatres to mark the occasion. One part of the film that is continually discussed is why Rose (Kate Winslet) and Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) could not have both fit on the floating door after the ship went down. Instead, Jack says his goodbyes to Rose while freezing to death in the icy water. The TV show Mythbusters showed that Jack could have fit on the door. So why didn’t he join Rose? Cameron gave what sounds like the final word on the subject in an interview with Vanity Fair, saying of course Jack could have fit on the floating door. But that was not the point.
“The answer is very simple because it says on page 147 [of the script] that Jack dies,” Cameron explained. “Very simple. . . . Obviously it was an artistic choice, the thing was just big enough to hold her, and not big enough to hold him . . . I think it’s all kind of silly, really, that we’re having this discussion 20 years later. But it does show that the film was effective in making Jack so endearing to the audience that it hurts them to see him die.”
The entire film would have been “meaningless” of Jack survived, Cameron said. “The film is about death and separation; he had to die,” the director explained. “So whether it was that, or whether a smoke stack fell on him, he was going down. It’s called art; things happen for artistic reasons, not for physics reasons.”
While Jack in theory could have fit on the makeshift raft, he could have died that way, too, as Cameron explained that the door was only made to support one person. “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,” Cameron said.
“[Jack] didn’t know that she was gonna get picked up by a lifeboat an hour later; he was dead anyway. 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.”
The full interview at Vanity Fair is a great read, with Cameron also touching on things like the upcoming Avatar sequels and the next Terminator movies, among other things. Go read it here.
At $2.2 billion, Titanic is the second highest-grossing movie in history, only behind Avatar ($2.8 billion), which is another movie that Cameron directed.