James Cameron teased in December that he had performed a scientific study to prove once and for all that the ending of “Titanic” made sense. Fans have debated for over two decades whether Leonardo DiCaprio’s Jack could have survived by floating on the makeshift door raft with Kate Winslet’s Rose. The scientific study is detailed in National Geographic upcoming special “Titanic: 25 Years Later With James Cameron.”
While Cameron originally told press that forensic analysis confirmed “only one could survive” on the door raft, he does admit in the special that there’s a possible outcome where Jack “might have lived.” The director hired two stunt people with height and weight similar to DiCaprio and Winslet at the time of filming and recreated the “Titanic” raft scene in a pool to test multiple theories and outcomes.
In the first test, Cameron disproves the fan theory that there was simply enough room on the raft for both Jack and Rose to survive. While there is enough room for “Jack and Rose to get on the raft, they’re now both submerged in dangerous levels of freezing water,” Cameron observed. Footage shows most of the stunt duo’s bodies under water in this scenario.
Winslet herself predicted this outcome during a recent appearance on the “Happy Sad Confused” podcast, saying, “I have to be honest: I actually don’t believe that we would have survived if we had both gotten on that door. I think he would have fit, but it would have tipped and it would not have been a sustainable idea. Yes, he could have fit on that door, but it would not have stayed afloat. It wouldn’t.”
In the second test, Cameron again fit both Jack and Rose on the raft but positioned their bodies so that their upper halves (which includes vital organs) remained out of the water. Their chances of both surviving increased in this scenario.
“Out of the water, [his body’s] violent shaking was helping him,” Cameron said. “Projecting it out, he could’ve made it pretty long. Like, hours.”
The question mark with this scenario is endurance. The stunt people were well-rested and able to prop up their upper bodies out of the water for a longer period of time. Could Jack and Rose have done the same? By the time the characters find themselves at the raft in the film, they’ve endured hours of exhausting chases, potential drownings, fights and the entire sinking of the Titanic. It’s more than likely neither character would have the fresh endurance of the stunt people to be able to sustain the body positions needed to survive for longer.
For the third and final test, Cameron had the stunt people perform all of the strenuous activity that Jack and Rose go through in the film in order to tire them out. Cameron also added an extra moment that is not included in the film: Rose gives Jack her life jacket.
“He’s stabilized,” Cameron said. “He got into a place where if we projected that out, he just might’ve made it until the lifeboat got there. Jack might’ve lived, but there’s a lot of variables. I think his thought process was, ‘I’m not going to do one thing that jeopardized her,’ and that’s 100 percent in character.”
So there you have it: Jack “might’ve lived” if Rose handed him her life vest. But, of course, that doesn’t happen in the movie.
“Titanic: 25 Years Later With James Cameron” airs Feb. 5 on National Geographic Channel. Cameron’s “Titanic” returns to theaters in a new 4K 3D restoration on Feb. 11.