James Cameron, the director of the critically acclaimed 1997 film Titanic, is putting the 25-year floating door debate to rest. Cameron has stated that he has conducted a study to unequivocally prove that both Jack (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose (played by Kate Winslet) could not have survived in the frigid waters where the ship sank.
The iconic scene finds Jack telling Rose to lie on a floating door as the RMS Titanic sinks in the background. Partially submerged in the water, Jack holds on to the board and makes Rose promise him that she will survive, and as rescuers circle the area several hours later, she realizes Jack is dead.
Since the film’s release, critics and fans alike have argued that the door could have held both characters, ensuring their survival, but Cameron has consistently said Jack’s fate was written into page 147 of the script. “Look, it’s very, very simple,” Cameron told The Daily Beast in 2017. “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.’”
Despite his insistence that the door could not have held both characters, Cameron has faced criticism that the scene is unrealistic and in a Mythbusters episode, hosts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage told Cameron that if a lifejacket was placed under the door it would have created enough buoyancy for Jack and Rose to survive.
Cameron is now putting an end to the debate, and told Postmedia per the Toronto Sun that he commissioned “a scientific study to put this whole thing to rest and drive a stake through its heart once and for all.”
He explained, “We have since done a thorough forensic analysis with a hypothermia expert who reproduced the raft from the movie … We took two stunt people who were the same body mass of Kate and Leo and we put sensors all over them and inside them and we put them in ice water and we tested to see whether they could have survived through a variety of methods and the answer was, there was no way they both could have survived. Only one could survive.”
The study is set to appear in a National Geographic special in February around the time the remastered version of Titanic is scheduled to be released.
Titanic was the highest-ever grossing film until the release of Cameron’s 2009 film, Avatar. But in the decades since Titanic was released, the controversial scene has plagued Cameron regardless of his comments that Jack had to die. In 2019, he said on BBC’s series “Movies That Made Me” that the debate was “stupid,” and compared the storyline to that of Romeo and Juliet.
“But if you really want to unearth all the dumbass arguments associated with it, ... let’s go back to, could Romeo have been smart and not taken the poison?” he told the outlet, answering, “Yes.” He continued, “Could he have decided not to bring his little dagger just in case Juliet might stab herself with it? Yes, absolutely. It sort of misses the point.”
No matter what the critics say, the final moments of Jack’s life are something Cameron said had to happen. Speaking to Postmedia, he said, “It’s a movie about love and sacrifice and mortality. The love is measured by the sacrifice.”