There are few movies quite as popular as James Cameron's Titanic. The 1997 classic is one of the highest grossing movies of all time, and has been played regularly on syndication for the decades since its release. Most cinephiles can quote at least one character from Titanic, and fans have been debating about Jack's fate since Rose first promised to never let go. The debate as to whether or not Leonardo DiCaprio's hero could have fit on the door with Rose hasn't stopped over the years, but actor Billy Zane has his own opinion. Zane played the villainous Cal to massive acclaim, and believes the narrative of Titanic needs to see Jack die, for emotional purposes.
Well, that was simple enough. While we'll likely continue debating the weight support possibilities of Rose's door from Titanic's final scenes, Billy Zane doesn't seem to be overthinking it. Jack had to die for the story to make sense, and to carry the epic emotional weight of the over 3 hour film.
Billy Zane's comments to People make a great deal of sense, considering the overall theme of Titanic. The story shows how Jack saved Rose's life aboard The Titanic, and did so time and time again. He stopped her from killing herself, showed her new life in the world, and impacted the way she grew into adulthood in America. Rather than going form being Cal's wife to Jack's wife, Rose becomes an independent woman of the world, and experiences all life has to offer. This is what makes Jack's death worth it.
If Jack were to survive the entire journey, it would certainly lower the stakes of Titanic's second half. He and Rose are met with multiple threats to their lives during the infamous sinking, including bullets, drowning, and a physical altercation or two. The overall love story wouldn't be quite as epic if Jack has managed to survive long enough to be rescued alongside Rose.
Additionally, there is added poetry in the fact that Rose is alone with her memories of Jack. There are no records of him being aboard The Titanic, and it's presumed that Rose cut ties with her mother after surviving the tragedy. As older Rose says "he exists now, only in my memory". Jack surviving the freezing waters on April 14th would have ruined these storytelling moments, and ended the film on too cheesy of a note.
Speaking of the ending, Jack's death is what makes the final moments of the film so powerful. Finally at peace, Rose passes on and reunites with the rest of the Titanic's passengers and crew in the afterlife. She and Jack share a kiss, as the audience and the ensemble applauds.
Do you agree with Billy Zane's thoughts? Let us know in the comments below. And be sure to check out our 2018 release list to plan your next trip to the movies.
Corey was born and raised in New Jersey. Double majored in theater and literature during undergrad. After working in administrative theater for a year in New York, he started as the Weekend Editor at CinemaBlend. He's since been able to work himself up to reviews, phoners, and press junkets-- and is now able to appear on camera with some of his famous actors... just not as he would have predicted as a kid.
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