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The ‘Titanic’ Door Debate Almost Didn’t Happen Because James Cameron Was Weary of Casting Kate Winslet

Photo Credit: Mana / YouTube screengrab and Mike Marsland / Mike Marsland / WireImage / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Mana / YouTube screengrab and Mike Marsland / Mike Marsland / WireImage / Getty Images

Tears flowed when audiences watched Jack give up his place on the floating door to offer Rose a chance at survival following the sinking of the Titanic in the 1997 film. Once those tears were wiped away, fans took a closer look at the scene and realized that the door seemed awfully big for only one person. This sparked a decades-long debate about whether or not Jack could have actually survived the sinking of the Titanic. Kate Winslet finally chimed in to give her opinion on the matter, and James Cameron made a surprising announcement as well.

The door debate has been going on for years

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet with frost in their hair touching foreheads in "Titanic"
The door debate has been going on for decades following the release of the film in 1997. Could Jack have fit on the door and survived? (Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures / Twentieth Century Fox / murraymomo / MovieStillsDB)

Since the film’s release in 1997, fans have been in an ongoing debate about whether Jack could have fit on the door alongside Rose rather than staying in the water and freezing to death. Many folks have attempted to prove whether or not it was feasible for Jack to survive the Titanic sinking.

On an episode of Mythbusters, hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman created an exact replica of the door and as they carried out their experiment, they realized there was plenty of space for the two to comfortably rest on it. The problem was buoyancy. The door was unable to support the weight of the two without toppling to the side. However, they discovered that if a life vest was tied to the bottom of the door, it solved the buoyancy problem. Whether or not it was feasible that Jack, suffering from hypothermia, could have tied a life vest underneath the door has also been up for debate.

In Westminster, Australia, a group of students decided to test the math behind the Mythbusters experiment and find out whether it was actually valid. One student explained, “We looked at how buoyant the door would have been, and how that would have changed if there were people on top of that. There was a lot of exploring and testing, and we had to fiddle with different buoyancies and look at what materials were realistic for that time.” In the end, they proved that the math was sound – buoyancy was achievable.

They’ll have to recreate the scene

Headshot of Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet dressed well and hugging
Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo Credit: Alexandra Wyman / WireImage / Getty Images)

Fans finally turned to Kate Winslet, the actress who played Rose, to see what she had to say about it. “It’s funny, the door seems to have had a resurgence over the last few years. I don’t know why,” she said in an interview.

She’s well aware of all of the different experiments fans have gone through to determine whether or not Jack could have survived the sinking. “People seem to be doing all kinds of experiments as to whether or not they could’ve really fit on the door,” she said. “It’s hilarious. It’s one of those unanswerable questions. We’ll have to just go back there again and see if we could really both get on that door eventually.”

Although Winslet feels they need to hop back into that cold water in order to truly determine whether Jack could have lived, it doesn’t seem likely to happen. Other members of the film have their own opinions on the door debate that would prevent such an experiment from happening.

What James Cameron and Leonardo DiCaprio have to say about the door debate

Kate Winslet, James Cameron, and Leonardo DiCaprio on a red carpet. Cameron holds an award.
Director James Cameron, actress Kate Winslet, and actor Leonardo DiCaprio pose for photographers after Cameron won the award for Best Director for “Titanic” at the 55th Annual Golden Globe Awards at the Beverly Hilton. (Photo Credit: HAL GARB / AFP / Getty Images)

Winslet’s co-star, Leonardo DiCaprio, who played Jack in the film, only has one thing to say whenever he is asked about his opinion on the door debate – “no comment.”

However, one of the people who has remained steadfast that Jack couldn’t have fit on the door is the director of the film, James Cameron. Not only does Cameron know about the Mythbusters experiment, he joined in on the episode! Regardless of the outcome of the experiment, he said there was no possible way Jack could have climbed onto that door. “Look,” he said, “it’s very, very simple: you read page 147 of the script and it says, ‘Jack gets off the board and gives his place to her so that she can survive.’ It’s that simple. You can do all the post-analysis you want.”

Cameron has said that the whole debate is pointless. “I’ve never really seen it as a debate, it’s just stupid,” he said. “There’s no debate. But if you really want to unearth all the [explicit] arguments associated with it…I mean, let’s go back to, could Romeo have been smart and not taken the poison? Yes. Could he have decided not to bring his little dagger just in case Juliet might stab herself with it? Yes, absolutely. It sort of misses the point.”

National Geographic’s special investigation

Despite Cameron stating that the door debate was a waste of time, National Geographic made a special about the film called Titanic: 25 Years Later with James Cameron. The National Geographic team conducted scientific experiments to finally learn whether Jack could have survived if he’d joined Rose on the door. Simulations of their ordeal, using stunt doubles with similar body types as Winslet and DiCaprio, were used in the experiment which was overseen by a hypothermia expert.

The water temperature the night Titanic sank was 28 degrees. In the Nat Geo test, the temperature was doubled for twice the exposure time in the water.

“We weren’t trying to prove or disprove anything, we’re just trying to say, ‘If you do this, does it make it better?'” said Cameron. He added that after four tests, the team came to “some pretty hard and fast conclusions.”

The negative impact of the door debate

Kate Winslet.
Kate Winslet, 1998. (Photo Credit: Jim Smeal / Ron Galella Collection / Getty Images)

The door debate took a negative turn early on following the film’s release as Winslet was body-shamed, her weight being a reason why Jack couldn’t fit on the door with her. “Apparently I was too fat,” Winslet said. “Why were they so mean to me? They were so mean. I wasn’t even [expletive] fat.”

She explained how she would’ve handled the situation differently, saying “I would have said to journalists, I would have responded, I would have said, ‘Don’t you dare treat me like this. I’m a young woman, my body is changing, I’m figuring it out, I’m deeply insecure, I’m terrified, don’t make this any harder than it already is.’ That’s bullying, you know, and actually borderline abusive, I would say.”

“It can be extremely negative,” Winslet said in an interview with The Sunday Times in regards to women navigating fame. “People are subject to scrutiny that is more than a young, vulnerable person can cope with. But in the film industry it is really changing. When I was younger my agent would get calls saying, ‘How’s her weight?’ I kid you not. So it’s heartwarming that this has started to change.”

Winslet said the fame was ‘horrible’

Paparrazi picture of Kate Winslet.
Kate Winslet caught by paparazzi. (Photo Credit: Jim Smeal / Ron Galella Collection / Getty Images)

Winslet explained that after the craze brought about by the release Titanic, she actively took on smaller roles in independent films, calling the fame from the blockbuster “horrible.” At just 22 years old at the time of the release, Winslet wasn’t prepared for the level of fame she would achieve from starring in the film.

“[Young women now] know how to use their voice,” Winslet said. “I felt like [in the aftermath of ‘Titanic’] I had to look a certain way, or be a certain thing, and because media intrusion was so significant at that time, my life was quite unpleasant.”

She continued, “Journalists would always say, ‘After “Titanic,” you could have done anything and yet you chose to do these small things’…and I was like, ‘Yeah, you bet your [expletive] life I did! Because, guess what, being famous was horrible.'” That being said, Winslet still appreciated what starring in the film did for her, she just wishes it wasn’t as intense.

“I was grateful, of course. I was in my early twenties and I was able to get a flat. But I didn’t want to be followed literally feeding the ducks,” she explained.

Cameron wasn’t even sure if Winslet was the right choice

Kate Winslet and James Cameron taking a photo together on a red carpet.
Kate Winslet and James Cameron on December 5, 2017, in San Francisco, California. (Photo Credit: C Flanigan / Getty Images)

All of this may never have happened, as Winslet wasn’t Cameron’s first choice to play Rose. Cameron recently sat down for an interview where he revealed he wasn’t originally sold on the idea of casting Kate Winslet for the role in Titanic. He explained that, at the time, he felt it was “lazy casting.” Prior to starring in the 1997 film, Winslet had largely starred in period pieces, including Sense and Sensibility (1996) and Hamlet (1996). Her affinity for playing period roles made him question if she really was a good choice or just an obvious one. 

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Cameron said that, ultimately, “wiser heads prevailed, and I could see what everybody was talking about. She’s very alive. She comes into a room with a great deal of confidence, and she’s got that spark of life.” For her role, Winslet earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in a Supporting role.

Thank goodness Cameron came around, because we could not picture anyone else as Rose!

Samantha Franco

Samantha Franco is a Freelance Content Writer who received her Bachelor of Arts degree in history from the University of Guelph, and her Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Western Ontario. Her research focused on Victorian, medical, and epidemiological history with a focus on childhood diseases. Stepping away from her academic career, Samantha previously worked as a Heritage Researcher and now writes content for multiple sites covering an array of historical topics.

In her spare time, Samantha enjoys reading, knitting, and hanging out with her dog, Chowder!