The unsinkable James Cameron has admitted to a hole in his storytelling, acknowledging after a battery of lab tests that “Jack might have lived” in Titanic.
The acknowledgment comes in Titanic: 25 Years Later with James Cameron, a new one-hour National Geographic special. “We released Titanic 25 years ago,” Cameron said by way of introdu tion (via Rolling Stone). “But, despite all our efforts to make the film as accurate as possible, there’s one thing some fans just can’t accept: They insist Jack could’ve survived if he climbed on that floating piece of debris with Rose.”
In order to prove his view of the matter, Cameron enlisted stunt actors Josh Bird and Kristine Zipfel, who were thought to be about the same height and weight as stars Leonardo DiCaprio (Jack) and Kate Winslet (Rose) in the 1997 blockbuster. His testing included a large body of cold water in a lab, a raft of the same size and “degree of buoyancy you see in the film,” and close monitoring of the actors’ temperatures to prevent real-life hypothermia.
The initial tests did suggest that Jack would suffer from hypothermia after only about 20 minutes — far shorter than the approximately two hours it took rescue crews to arrive. Next, Bird and Zipfel tried to fit on the raft. This did not prove easy.
Both actors were able to comfortably fit their upper bodies on the raft, but their underwater lower bodies quickly put them at risk of hypothermia. The stunt workers also tried kneeling on the debris, though it became far too unstable to keep them dry for long.
Eventually, however, Bird and Zipfel found a compromise where most of their bodies were on top of the raft and only their lower legs dipped below the waterline. This had the added benefit of allowing the actors to share body heat, and under this (admittedly difficult) scenario, Cameron believes Jack could have survived “a few hours,” which is long enough to be rescued.