"It's been 85 years...and I can still smell the fresh paint. The china had never been used. The sheets had never been slept in.
Titanic was called the Ship of Dreams.
And it was. It really was..."
After decades of searching, the wreck of Titanic was found by an expedition team led by Dr. Robert Ballard in 1985 lying in two massive pieces 12,378 feet under the ocean surface. The discovery answered many questions about the great ship's demise, at the same time feeding the controversy and fascination that has for decades surrounded this tragic event.
Drawing inspiration from this hulking specter below the sea, James Cameron envisioned a love story intertwined with the fascinating details about the ship and her maiden -- and only -- voyage to further humanize its legendary symbolism. Utilizing advanced filmmaking technology, audiences will also set sail on Titanic. However, despite its state-of-the-art pedigree, the film is - and remains - a powerfully human tale. It is here that the heart of "Titanic" beats. Traveling on a ship physically designed to prevent them from ever meeting, third-class passenger Jack Dawson and first-class passenger, Rose DeWitt Bukater, have taken the ultimate risk -- to defy the oppressive social conventions of their time and fall in love.
With such a clear image of who Jack and Rose were as people, Cameron sought to find the definitive pair of actors who could breathe life into such dynamic characters. He would ultimately select two young rising stars, both Oscar« nominees before the age of 21 - Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. "Luck was a major factor in casting Leo," Cameron says. "I just felt you would care about him a lot more. He has tremendous vitality on screen. Leo has a kind of wiry, survival quality about him that's pretty cool. As for Kate, there was such a luminous quality in her face, voice and eyes that I knew audiences would be ready to go the distance with her, which was critical because it's a hell of a journey and she's ultimately the person you're making that journey with." Jack is an artist coming back to America after a several-year sojourn in Europe. Rose is traveling with her mother and fiancÚ, returning home to Philadelphia for her impending marriage.Through their chance meeting, class lines blur for one telling moment to allow these two strangers to establish a powerful bond. Actress Kate Winslet explains the attraction:
"Jack is the first person, the first man certainly, who has shown interest in her desires and her dreams," Winslet says. "They share so many of the same passions for life, which he's already attained and to which she's aspiring." She takes on her first starring American role as the headstrong Rose. "She's a very spirited girl," Winslet says. "She has a lot to give and a very open heart. She wants to explore the world but knows that's not going to happen. When we first meet her, there's a sense of resignation and despair about her. Then she meets Jack Dawson and an amazing love surfaces, which is based completely on trust and communication."
Fresh from his acclaimed performances in "William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet" and "Marvin's Room," Oscar« nominee Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Jack Dawson, a struggling young artist who wins his third-class ticket aboard Titanic in a lucky game of poker. "Jack is a sort of wandering person," Leonardo DiCaprio says, "who seizes on the opportunities life presents to him. At a young age, I think he realizes how short life really is, and that's a big factor in who he is as a person."
Seduced by Jack's artist soul, Rose at first cannot find the strength to extricate herself from her engagement to Caledon Hockley (Billy Zane) and the weighty presence of his family name and wealth. At first, Cal and his intimate circle of wealthy friends look at Jack with a sense of amusement. After Jack and Rose's chance meeting, Cal invites Jack to dinner in first-class, expecting to entertain his fellow guests at the expense of the young man. Instead, he has set the stage for his own rejection.
"Jack Dawson doesn't exist as far as my character, Cal Hockley, is concerned, at least not at first," Zane observes. "Except for servants, the lower classes were pretty much invisible to the super-rich denizens of Hockley's class." "The world of 1912 was on a precipice," Zane notes. "It marked extreme change in terms of social reform. You have the birth of a new era, embodied by Jack, who is kind of a reminder of the frontier spirit. Cal represents a more imperious sensibility that is flawed and collapsing."
Not oblivious to his fiancee's melancholy, Cal attempts to placate Rose in the only way he understands, presenting her with a priceless blue diamond called the "Heart of the Ocean." It is a turning point for Rose, seeing at last her place in Cal's life as mere adornment and not as a wife.
"Cal is the guy you love to hate," Zane smiles. "He's coming to terms with exactly what a relationship is all about. Cal's relationship with Rose is built more upon public appearance. She is a catch -- a bauble -- and there lies the root of the problem."
Complicating matters further for Rose is her socially driven mother, Ruth (Frances Fisher). Terrified by the carefully guarded secret of her family's near destitution, Ruth sees Jack's presence in Rose's life as a threat to the financial survival insured by her daughter's union with Cal. As Jack and Rose's forbidden love grows, Cal and Ruth exert their formidable powers to keep them apart. And all the while Titanic and her passengers plunge inevitably toward their tragic destiny. Winslet says, "I believe that this story does take you to the point where you would do anything you could to stop that ship from sinking in order for them to be together." Adds Cameron, "Every single moment that you're with them, there is this little voice in the back of your mind that's saying they're all doomed. This knowledge gives every moment Jack and Rose share an extra sense of poignancy."
While the epic journey chronicled by "Titanic" begins in the present, the story flashes back to the past, allowing a new generation to witness this series of powerful events with the added benefit of an historic perspective. In the process, Cameron explores the social and cultural layers that were exposed as a result of the accident.
"There's a startling fact that emerges from an analysis of who lived and died on Titanic," Cameron says. "If you were a male in steerage class, you stood about a one in 10 chance of surviving. If you were a first-class male, you stood about a 50/50 chance of surviving. If you were a first-class female, you stood virtually a 100% chance, and if you were a third-class female, you're chances were about 25%. In short survival was largely a function of gender and class. Titanic represented the first time class was translated into body count, and published for all the world to see."
"We wanted to tell a fictional story within absolutely rigorous, historically accurate terms," Cameron says. "If something is known to have taken place, we do not violate it. Likewise, there's nothing that we show that could not have happened. Our fictitious characters are woven through the pylons of history in such a way that they could have been there. All the accuracy and all the special visual effects are intended for one purpose: to put the viewer on Titanic. It's a very you-are-there kind of experience."