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James Cameron Finally Admits Jack Could Have Lived at the End of "Titanic"

Twenty-five years later, the director did an experiment to figure out the truth.

It's been 84 years—sorry, 25 years since the blockbuster Titanic hit theaters on Dec. 19, 1997. And while the movie is still beloved and constantly airing on TV, there's one aspect that some viewers still can't get over: Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) freezing to death in the ocean while Rose (Kate Winslet) survives by laying on a floating piece of debris. Why didn't Jack float on it with her? Wasn't there room enough for them both? These questions are still plaguing fans all these years later.

Now, perhaps, people will be satisfied at last. In a new special for National Geographic, director James Cameron conducts an intricate test to see if there's a way both Jack and Rose could have survived the freezing ocean waters together. Here's what he found.

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Fans have theorized for years that Jack could have survived.

Fans were so upset to see Jack die at the end of Titanic that they tried to imagine a way in which he could have made it through the night to be rescued. Rose floats on a fairly large piece of wood from the wreckage that appears big enough that Jack could also have fit on it.

In 2012, the show Mythbusters ran an experiment and determined that two people could have floated on the piece of debris if the lifejacket they had was attached to the bottom of it. Cameron made an appearance on the episode, and he was unimpressed by their findings. "I think you guys are missing the point here," the filmmaker said. "The script says Jack dies. He has to die. So, maybe we screwed up and the board should have been a tiny bit smaller, but the dude's going down."

Cameron had a bone to pick with Mythbusters, however.

James Cameron at the launch party for Suzy Amis Cameron's book in 2018
Vladimir Yazev / Shutterstock

In 2017, Cameron had some criticism for the Mythbusters experiment in an interview with The Daily Beast. He explained that taking the time to tie a lifejacket onto the bottom of the debris in 28 degree water alone would have been enough to kill Jack.

"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," Cameron said. "They're fun guys and I loved doing that show with them, but they're full of [expletive]."

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He just conducted his own test.

For the National Geographic special Titanic: 25 Years Later With James Cameron, Cameron did his own recreation of the end of the movie to see if both Rose and Jack could have survived. The experiment was done in a special lab with a doctor who studies the effects of cold on the human body and with stunt performers standing in as Jack and Rose. As reported by Rolling Stone, a replica of the wooden board was created to have the same "degree of buoyancy you see in the film."

Four scenarios were tested. Initially, it was difficult to find a position where both Rose and Jack's bodies were out of the water enough to not freeze, but when they adjusted in a particular way, they could both have their upper bodies out of the water. "Projecting it out, he could have made it pretty long. Like hours," Cameron determined.

But, that wasn't all.

The experiment was even more elaborate than that.

As Cameron explains in the special, Jack and Rose go through a lot of strenuous activity before they make it to the piece of floating debris. So, in the experiment, they also reenact the lead-up to that moment, including the stunt performers holding their breath underwater, swimming, and Jack punching someone in the face. They doubled the length of time for each stage of their recreation to make up for the fact that their water wasn't as cold as it would have been in real life.

In the end, Cameron concluded, "Jack might have lived, but there's a lot of variables. I think his thought process was, 'I'm not going to do one thing that jeopardizes her.' And that's 100 percent a character." He added, "Based on what I know today, I would have made the raft smaller so there's no doubt."

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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