James Cameron Finally Explains Why Jack Had to Die in Titanic

Illustration for article titled James Cameron Finally Explains Why Jack Had to Die in Titanic

James Cameron, an easily-irritable man who is also kind of a dick, sounds like he’s sick and tired of answering questions about Titanic—arguably the best movie he’s made in his entire career.


Among the many questions raised about Titanic’s inevitable end, one that has run on an endless loop for 20 years, is this: why the hell doesn’t Rose just scoot over and make some room for Jack on that stupid door? In an interview with Vanity Fair, Cameron addressed this issue so comprehensively that I feel we will finally be able to put this question to rest.

And the answer is very simple because it says on page 147 [of the script] that Jack dies. Very simple... Obviously it was an artistic choice, the thing was just big enough to hold her, and not big enough to hold him... I think it’s all kind of silly, really, that we’re having this discussion 20 years later. But it does show that the film was effective in making Jack so endearing to the audience that it hurts them to see him die. Had he lived, the ending of the film would have been meaningless... The film is about death and separation; he had to die. So whether it was that, or whether a smoke stack fell on him, he was going down. It’s called art, things happen for artistic reasons, not for physics reasons.

Yes, Cameron, things do indeed “happen for artistic reasons” and not for “physics reasons,” but since you raised that last point right there and since everyone watching the movie has eyes with which to see that the door was truly QUITE large—large enough to fit the birdlike bones of a young Leonardo diCaprio as well as his true love, Kate Winslet—an explanation for those “physics reasons” would be nice.

“I was in the water with the piece of wood putting people on it for about two days getting it exactly buoyant enough so that it would support one person with full free-board, meaning that she wasn’t immersed at all in the 28 degree water so that she could survive the three hours it took until the rescue ship got there. [Jack] didn’t know that she was gonna get picked up by a lifeboat an hour later; he was dead anyway. And we very, very finely tuned it to be exactly what you see in the movie because I believed at the time, and still do, that that’s what it would have taken for one person to survive.”

Even though the door was big enough for Kate Winslet to lie all the way flat, Jack still had to die. It was in the script that Jack died, and so he did. James Cameron would’ve killed him via a smokestack or perhaps at the hands of a jealous Fabrizio (just a thought!) or maybe he would’ve time-travelled to the future to see Future Rose drop that big diamond in the ocean, and he would’ve jumped in the water after said diamond and been turned to shark chum by the powerful turbine engine of the big-ass ship.

So that’s that, I guess. Jack died because James Cameron wanted him to die. The end.

Senior Writer, Jezebel



...he’s sick and tired of answering questions about Titanic—arguably the best movie he’s made in his entire career.

Okay...let’s have that argument, I guess. James Cameron has only directed eight feature films in his 40-year career, and Titanic is not in the top 3—it may be charitable to put it in the top 5. And that’s not even because the other films he’s made have been that great.

ETA: The Abyss, Aliens and one of the two Terminators (Probably Judgment Day) are the top 3. I could be persuaded that Avatar, which I do not like, belongs in his top 3. I could not be persuaded that Titanic, though a significant technical achievement for its time, is a better movie than any of them.