20th Century Fox
Always eager to take on urban legends, old wives tales, and movie mysteries, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman of Discovery Channel's "Mythbusters" finally laid to rest one of the most disputed endings in cinematic history: did Leonardo DiCaprio's Jack Dawson really have to die at the end of "Titanic"?
Writer/director James Cameron ("Aliens," "Avatar") broke countless hearts in 1997 when he decided to have DiCaprio's character selflessly sacrifice himself so that the love of his life, Rose (Kate Winslet), could survive by clinging to a piece of debris. After the big boat (spoiler!) sinks at the end of the movie, Jack and Rose find themselves hanging onto a wooden plank in the freezing North Atlantic, but the plank is apparently not buoyant enough to support both their weights. Jack helps Rose climb atop the plank and out of the water, but soon succumbs to the frigid April temperatures himself. Shortly after promising to "never let go," Rose does just that, letting Jack sink into the sea just as rescuers find her. You made a promise, Rose!
However, many fans have contended that things didn't have to be that way, arguing that the wooden plank in question could have easily supported both Jack and Rose. One dedicated couple even created a mockup of the wooden plank to show that the characters could have both fit on top of it. DiCaprio's character would have survived the legendary disaster and Rose wouldn't have had to throw away a perfectly good giant diamond necklace at the end of the movie.
Pressed on this very issue in an interview while promoting the film's 3D re-release earlier this year, Cameron conceded that the plank certainly could have held the star-crossed lovers, but had that been the case, the now-partially submerged pair would have both died of hypothermia. "It's not a question of room; it's a question of buoyancy," said the director. "It's clear that there is really only enough buoyancy available for one person."
Hyneman and Savage with James Cameron. (Discovery Channel)
Challenge accepted. In response to the contentions of fans and Cameron's claims to the contrary, the intrepid, mystery debunking Mythbusters set out to see if Jack and Rose could have both survived the sinking of the Titanic — with a little help from Cameron himself.
Subbing for DiCaprio and Winslet, Savage and Hyneman took to San Francisco Bay aboard a replica wooden plank (in cold weather water survival gear, no less) and attempted to remain afloat with the majority of their bodies out of the water for 63 minutes — the time it took for Rose to be rescued. The hosts had some trouble making it work at first, but using their trademark "MacGyver"-esque ingenuity, the two were eventually able to stay out of the water for over an hour by tying the life vest around the plank and balancing very carefully. Myth busted? Not quite.
"I think you guys are missing the point," said Cameron. "The script says Jack dies. He has to die."
Who are the Mythbusters to argue with the script?
Watch Savage and Hyneman try to disprove "Titanic's" sad ending here.