Passionate fans of Titanic have hounded Cameron for years with their theory that Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) could have survived by joining his beloved Rose (Kate Winslet) on the floating door after the ship sank. In the film, Jack realizes that he would only kill both of them by adding his weight, so he eventually dies in the freezing North Atlantic.
To settle the matter once and for all – and to pump up Titantic’s theatrical re-release Feb. 10 – Cameron has helmed an upcoming National Geographic special, Titanic: 25 Years Later With James Cameron. In it, Cameron and a team recreate the scene and try four different scenarios to see if there was a way for Jack to live.
Titanic: 25 Years Later With James Cameron premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. ET on National Geographic, and streams the next day on Hulu.
SPOILER ALERT: Do Not Read Past This Line If You Wish To Be Surprised By The Results
The good news for Jack fans is that there possibly could have been a way to survive on the door, but it would have been tricky.
The tests starts with Jack and Rose both on the door. They can do it, but their combined weight keeps them immersed in frigid water. Fail.
If both Jack and Rose could have gotten on the door in a position that lifts their upper bodies out of the water, they potentially could have survived. It would have required knowledge of the circumstances and some strength.
“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 final test involves a scene not in the film involving a life jacket. They also have Jack and Rose perform a series of strenuous exercises.
“He’s stabilized,” Cameron says. “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.”
Kate Winslet weighed in on the testing as well. She isn’t buying survival.
“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,” Winslet said in December on the Happy Sad Confused podcast. “So, you heard it here for the first time. Yes, he could have fit on that door, but it would not have stayed afloat. It wouldn’t.”