To commemorate the 25th anniversary of his blockbuster melodrama Titanic, director James Cameron has decided to conduct a very thorough, slightly unhinged scientific test of “the raft theory,” aka the movie’s biggest point of contention among fans. The theory, of course, is that Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) could have floated alongside Rose (Kate Winslet) on a broken door in the ocean and survived, rather than plunge, frozen, into the fathomless depths of the sea.
Is it possible? To find out, Cameron enlisted the aid of two (hopefully well-compensated) stunt actors around the same height and weight as DiCaprio and Winslet were at the time, dunked them in a freezing pool in a controlled laboratory setting, and had them try different methods of simultaneously remaining on the raft together.
In one scenario—seen below in a clip from the upcoming NatGeo special Titanic: 25 Years Later with James Cameron—both actors were able to position themselves on the raft so that their upper bodies remained out of the water, but their lower extremities got soaked.
The actors can also be seen being shoved underwater by divers in order to approximate the stress and loss of energy Jack and Rose would have actually felt if they were indeed adrift, awaiting rescue.
After the actors’ exhaustive experiment, “she got him to a place where, if we projected that out, he just might have made it until the lifeboat got there,” Cameron concludes.
“Final verdict: Jack might’ve lived, but there’s a lot of variables,” the director confesses. “I think his thought process was, ‘I’m not gonna do one thing that jeopardizes her.’ Based on what I know today, I would have made the raft smaller so there’s no doubt.”
That certainly would have saved us 25 years of silly conspiracy theories, but it’s nice to at least put this debate to rest, especially for someone so seemingly obsessive as Cameron.