Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic (1997) by James Cameron © 20th Century Studios France
1. Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, improvisation pros in Titanic
In 1997, Kate Winslet (Rose DeWitt Bukater) and Leonardo DiCaprio (Jack Dawson), the interpreters of the mythical couple in Titanic, were not the superstars they became after the release of the film. However, the talent, passion, and chemistry, they brought to the blockbuster foreshadowed their impressive future careers in Hollywood. The two actors’ genius – who later became close friends in real life – was obvious when Rose, the middle-class lady, thanked the penniless artist Jack –a scene they improvised for a couple of days. It was also Kate Winslet’ ideas to utter the very romantic line “Jack, this is where we first met” before the shipwreck and to spit in Cal’s face (played by Billy Zane). Even more mythical, the famous exclamation “I’m the king of the world” was also improvised, but this time by James Cameron, who forced Leonardo DiCaprio to say it, even though the latter wasn’t convinced of its relevance. As a result, the line has eventually become one of the most frequently used in videos posted on social media, even to the point of parody.
2. Céline Dion’s song almost didn’t make it into the soundtrack
At first, James Cameron wanted the Irish singer Enya to compose the soundtrack of Titanic, but she did not follow him in his project. American composer James Horner finally came up with a soundtrack in the dreamy, lyrical style of Enya’s songs – who wrote the music for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – and secretly recorded the unsikable track My heart will go on with Céline Dion, although James Cameron only wanted an instrumental track and the singer admitted she hated the song. Yet, it was a brilliant idea as the syrupy hit rocked a whole generation at all dance parties in the 90s, and won an Oscar, a Golden Globe, and several Grammy Awards. It is also one of the best-selling singles in the world with 18 million copies sold.
3. An alternative fate possible for Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic?
25 years after the release of the film, the question that remains on the fans’ lips is whether or not Rose and Jack could have both survived on their wooden plank floating on icy waters? To answer that question, James Cameron organized and filmed a scientific test in the swimming pool of a laboratory in New Zealand. The experiment will be disclosed in the upcoming documentary Titanic: 25 Years Later with James Cameron broadcasted on the National Geographic channel. Two stuntmen re-enacted the rafting scene by impersonating Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, while a hypothermia expert came to his conclusion. It turns out that Jack could have survived on the plank, but many of the variables make that hope a slim one. In a final romantic gesture by the end of film, the hero would rather let go of the wooden board and give Rose a better chance of surviving, which she did. During a virtual press conference dedicated to the comeback of Titanic on the silver screen on February 8th, 2023, which Numéro attended, James Cameron revealed that, at the end of the film, when we see Rose as an old lady recalling her love affair with Jack, she holds her breath as she joins her lover in the afterlife. Until now, this scene was ambiguous as we did not know whether or not Rose was leaving this world.
4. James Cameron’s hesitation to cast Kate Winslet
During the virtual press conference for the 25th anniversary of Titanic, James Cameron addressed the doubts he had regarding the casting of the film. “Kate Winslet was getting a reputation of ‘Corset Kate’, because she had played in several period dramas before that. The last thing I wanted was for ‘Corset Kate’ to be in a film where one of the most memorable scenes is her being put into... a corset, which was obviously a visual symbol of her being restricted by society and by her family.” The director, who had originally considered Gwyneth Paltrow, Winona Ryder, and Claire Danes to play Rose, says: “She expressed a lot of interest and enthusiasm for the character. She believed she could do it. I wasn’t convinced.” James Cameron met her after several other tryouts with prominent actresses. Her audition was spectacular. After that, the young woman sent him a rose with a note that read “I am your Rose”. The actress will ultimately be impressive as the love-struck lady who defies the conventions of her social standing. James Cameron also revealed at the press conference that Leonardo DiCaprio, who was preferred to Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto to join the Titanic crew, wasn’t interested in the role of Jack. Indeed, according to the young actor, the character wasn’t a strong enough challenge for someone like him, who had previously shone in Gilbert Grape (1993) alongside Johnny Depp, and in Romeo + Juliet (1996) by Baz Luhrmann. Ironically, Titanic was the initial trigger of the “Leo Mania” tsunami.
Titanic (1997) by James Cameron will be released in a remastered 3D, 4K, HDR, and HFR version (the same technologies used in Avatar) on Wednesday 8th of February 2023.