25 ‘Titanic’ Facts You Never Knew

Titanic, Kate Winslet, Leonardo DiCaprio20th Century Fox Film via Everett Collection

If you’re anything like us, you can’t resist the urge to watch Titanic (or, at least, part of it) every time you see it on TV. You may know every word spoken, but do you know which lines were ad-libbed and which are actual quotes from survivors of the wreck? Here are 25 things you never knew:

1. The movie features 2 hours and 40 minutes of scenes set in 1912. This is the exact amount of time the Titanic took to sink.

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The film also has 37 seconds between the iceberg warning and the actual collision, which is the same amount of time that transpired in real life. 

2. Matthew McConaughey, Chris O’Donnell, Billy Crudup, and Stephen Dorff were considered for the role of Jack Dawson.

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But thankfully, the part went to Leonardo DiCaprio, cementing him as a superstar (and an eternal heartthrob). 

3. It was the first movie to receive two Academy Award nominations for the same character.

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Both Kate Winslet and Gloria Stuart were nominated (Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress, respectively) for playing the role of Rose. The next time two actors were nominated for playing the same role was 2001’s Iris, also starring Winslet.

4. Gloria Stuart’s nomination made her the oldest nominee in any category.

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She still holds the record for the feat. Stuart was 87 years old when she was nominated. This also makes her the only person involved in the film who was alive when the actual Titanic sank. Also, she gets that shout out as “the old lady” in Britney Spears’ “Oops! I Did It Again,” which is pretty much the highest honor anyone could ever hope to achieve.

5. Only the starboard half of the ship’s set was completed. 

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While at dock, painstaking post-production work was necessary to reverse the image in order to give an accurate portrayal of the boat docked at port (like it was in 1912). Costumes and signage needed to be reversed in order to perfect the illusion. 

6. The ocean that the extras are jumping into is only 3 feet deep. 

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The film contains 100 speaking parts and over 1,000 extras. They all needed to be dressed in lavish costumes…which would then be drenched in water for most of the film. 

7. “I’m king of the world!” wasn’t actually in the script.

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The line was ad-libbed by DiCaprio. It’s ranked as AFI’s 100th (of 100) greatest movie quotes of all time.    

8. And Jack’s ice-fishing story is a Titanic survivor’s quote about the North Atlantic water.

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He was dissuading Rose not to jump off the back of the boat, in the scene where they meet. 

9. James Cameron reportedly spoke to over 150 extras, providing them with names and personal histories of actual Titanic passengers.

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The 150 core extras took a 3-hour course to learn proper 1912 behavior from the film’s choreographer, Lynne Hockney, who also produced a time traveler’s guide that played on a never-ending loop in the wardrobe department. We bet Rose’s unladylike gesture was not in the guide. 

10. The old couple holding each other in bed as the ship sinks are based on a real couple.

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Ida & Isidor Straus, owners of Macy’s in New York, died aboard the Titanic. Ida was reportedly offered a seat, but refused it in order to stay with her husband. Her husband was then offered a seat to accompany his wife, but he refused it to save the lives of younger women and children. Ida is quoted as saying, “We have lived together for many years. Where you go, I go” (this is also reported, “As we have live, so we will die, together”). The couple was last seen on deck, arm in arm. Aka, the love story the Titanic should have been about

11. Benjamin Guggenheim really did get dressed in his best to die like a gentleman.

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He and his valet were last seen in the area of the Grand Staircase, sipping brandy and smoking cigars. They went down with the ship. 

12. Kathy Bates wasn’t the first choice to play “Unsinkable” Molly Brown. 

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Reba McEntire was initially offered and had accepted the role until scheduling conflicts prevented it. Barbra Streisand was also allegedly considered for the part. We’re glad Kathy Bates had the chance to own this (as usual). Margaret Brown was a real-life passenger aboard the Titanic who helped others onto lifeboats and even grabbed an oar on her own in an effort to go back and save more people. 

13. Kate Winslet flashed Leonardo DiCaprio when they first met.

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She found out she’d have to be naked in front of him for filming and wanted to break the ice.

14. That’s not Leonardo DiCaprio’s hand drawing Rose.

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They’re actually writer/director/producer/editor James Cameron’s. Cameron had to mirror-image his hands in post-production to make his left-handed sketching fit with Jack Dawson’s right-handedness. 

15. Someone mixed PCP (aka angel dust) into the chowder served to the cast and crew at the end of shooting.

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No culprits were ever apprehended, but reportedly 80 people were taken ill and 50 more were hospitalized. 

16. Originally, Rose was supposed to be tightening her mother’s corset. 

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Cameron and the actresses decided to rethink the positions to really clearly convey their relationship. You know, that Rose’s mother was literally suffocating her. 

17. Neil deGrasse Tyson convinced James Cameron to change the stars in the sky.

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The Director of New York’s Hayden Planetarium noticed that the stars bore no resemblance to what the night sky would have actually looked like during that time and in that location. After discussing the issue several times with Cameron (by sending letters and harassing in person), he provided an image of what the sky should look like, which was used for the re-release. You can hear “Coolest Scientist’s Rant” on Titanic here.

18. Kate Winslet was one of the only actors who didn’t wear a wetsuit.

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She ended up getting pneumonia and almost quitting as a result. 

19. The bow section wouldn’t sink fast enough, so Cameron sunk it entirely and raised it from the depths of the water and filmed its re-submersion.

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After the ship breaks in half, the bow (which should go down pretty quickly) wasn’t sinking fast enough because of its buoyancy and the narrow clearance between it and the tank. Once Cameron suggested to let it sink, the air space between decks flooded with water, allowing them to film it raised from the water, so it would sink quickly before the water drained out. 

20. James Cameron re-shot the scenes with water bursting down the corridors because he didn’t think the original 40,000 was enough.

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He asked for triple the amount of water. The set had to be rebuilt entirely to endure the added pressure. 

21. Kate Winslet’s dress was designed to look as good wet as it did dry.

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Costume designer Deborah Lynn Scott had 24 of the chiffon dresses made in order to endure all the strain of filming submerged in water.  

22. Rose’s gasp as she enters the water to save Jack is Kate Winslet’s real reaction to the frigid water.

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Though the scene was filmed in the Pacific Ocean at the Baja California, Mexico set, the water was still cold enough to imagine those North Atlantic temperatures. 

23. James Cameron credits Kate Winslet with the idea of spitting in Cal’s face.

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The script originally had Rose jabbing him with a hairpin, but Winslet suggested she spit in his face instead. Cameron agreed, and the only person not informed was Billy Zane (Cal); his reaction was genuine. Cameron also credits Winslet for the “This is where we first met” line.

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24. The scenes after the ship sank were filmed in a 350,000 gallon tank.

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Frozen corpses and icy effects were given to the actors by applying a powder that crystallized upon contact with water and wax on the clothes and hair for a wet look. 

25. James Cameron admitted on MythBusters that there was totally enough room for Jack and Rose to both float safely.

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If Jack lives, the movie makes a tenth as much.” So, like, she never had to let go in the first place…

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