“And the answer is very simple because it says on page 147 [of the script] that Jack dies,” Cameron said. “Very simple. . . . Obviously it was an artistic choice, the thing was just big enough to hold her, and not big enough to hold him.”
Cameron said he thinks it’s “all kind of silly” that fans are still discussing the physics behind the scene 20 years later. Still, fans haven’t let it go. Mythbusters even dedicated an episode to proving that both Leonardo DiCaprio‘s and Kate Winslet‘s characters could have fit on the door and survived.
“But it does show that the film was effective in making Jack so endearing to the audience that it hurts them to see him die,” Cameron continued. “Had he lived, the ending of the film would have been meaningless. . . . The film is about death and separation; he had to die. So whether it was that, or whether a smoke stack fell on him, he was going down. It’s called art, things happen for artistic reasons, not for physics reasons.”
Cameron even tested the physics himself and stands by his conviction.
“I was in the water with the piece of wood putting people on it for about two days getting it exactly buoyant enough so that it would support one person with full free-board, meaning that she wasn’t immersed at all in the 28 degree water so that she could survive the three hours it took until the rescue ship got there,” he told the magazine. “[Jack] didn’t know that she was gonna get picked up by a lifeboat an hour later; he was dead anyway. And we very, very finely tuned it to be exactly what you see in the movie because I believed at the time, and still do, that that’s what it would have taken for one person to survive.”