James Cameron Reveals What Titanic Got "Half Right" About the Historical Tragedy

Filmmaker James Cameron went to great lengths to honor the real-life tragedy of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, which included multiple visits to the remains of the underwater wreckage, but in the new documentary Titanic: 25 Years Later With James Cameron, the director revealed something he might have gotten wrong. In the special, per Entertainment Weekly, Cameron used replica models, pyrotechnics, and computer simulations to determine that two key components of the ship's sinking were both possible, though both things couldn't have happened, leaving him to admit that, despite not knowing which of these elements is more likely, this contradiction means he got the film "half right." 

In the film, the Titanic's bow sank under water following its collision with an iceberg, but when the angle of the sinking got so severe, the weight of the ship made the back half snap and splash horizontally into the ocean. With the two halves of the ship still attached, the sinking of the bow pulled the stern down so that it sunk vertically.

"The film Titanic depicts what we believed was an accurate portrayal of the ship's last hours. We showed it sinking bow-first, lifting the stern high in the air, before its massive weight broke the vessel in two," Cameron shares in the special. "Over the past 20 years, I've been trying to figure out if we got that right."

He continued, "I have no way of saying that is in fact what happened, but I'd like to be able to rule it in as a possibility 'cause then I don't have to remake the freaking film!" and confessed it was "as accurate as I could make it at the time."

The special determined that the stern could have fallen back into the water and the stern could have sunk vertically, but it could not have done both.

"We found out you can have the stern sink vertically and you can have the stern fall back with a big splash, but you can't have both," Cameron pointed out. "So the film is wrong on one point or the other -- I tend to think it's wrong on the 'fall back of the stern' because of what we see at the bow of the wreck."

He added, "I think we can rule in the possibility of a vertical stern sinking, and I think we can rule out the possibility of it both falling back and then going vertical. We were sort of half right in the movie."

While details like these, or the debate over whether Rose could have made room for Jack to float on a piece of debris and survive, are often approached from a movie mindset, Cameron clarified that the devotion to accuracy is more to honor the 1,500 lives that were lost in the tragedy.

"You always have to kind of grab yourself by the scruff of your neck and remind yourself what happened there was a real tragedy," the director expressed. "It happened to real people, and it still resonates down through time in this very powerful way."

National Geographic's Titanic: 25 Years Later With James Cameron is now streaming on Hulu.

What do you think of the filmmaker's remarks? Let us know in the comments!