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The true story behind James Cameron’s Titanic

Titanic — the maiden voyage of a majestic vessel and an epic love story by James Cameron enthralled viewers with the beautiful romantic portrayal of two lovers onboard — Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) and Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio), when the luxury liner which was allegedly advertised as being ‘unsinkable’, struck an iceberg and took away the lives of about 1,500  people. 

While the movie Titanic was a blockbuster and everyone’s favourite, be it millennials or GenZ, the real story of the Titanic ship took a back seat. Cameron fabricated many true events and added fictional characters to make the movie dramatic and thrilling on the silver screen. 

The cinematic screenplay did make the movie a massive success in the entertainment industry but modified the historical facts related to an important event. And to celebrate Titanic in its truest form let’s look at some intriguing facts about the ship — some were retained while some altered. 

Here are some untold truths from the real Titanic story

The characters of Jack and Rose

Rose and Jack, the iconic lovers of Titanic, are fictional and were written by Cameron. Even few other characters such as Rose’s mother Ruth (Frances Fisher), her fiancé Caledon ‘Cal’ Hockley (Billy Zane), Jack’s friends Fabrizio (Danny Nucci) and Tommy (Jason Barry), and Cal’s valet Spicer Lovejoy (David Warner) are fictional as well. 

The character of Rose was inspired by the American artist Beatrice Wood who was a writer, painter and sculptor as Cameron was reading her autobiography during Titanic’s development. There are certain similarities between Rose and Wood, such as their shared love for art and their affluent upbringing.

The J in J. Dawson is not for Jack  

Jack Dawson

A person named J. Dawson did board the luxury cruise but the J doesn’t stand for Jack Dawson. It is  for Joseph Dawson who boarded the Titanic as a coal trimmer and to our surprise even Cameron came to know about this fact after he finished writing the screenplay. 

So, apparently Jack’s last name being similar to Joseph’s was a major coincidence which served in favour of Cameron. 

Unsinkable, really? 

Titanic Story

In a prominent scene Rose’s mother points towards the ship from the dock and says  “So, this is the ship they say is unsinkable,” to make the audience aware of the fact that the story is of an unsinkable ship. However, contradicting the widely held belief, the shipping company — White Star Line, never advertised Titanic as unsinkable.

The class discrimination 

While it is very common to believe what we see, the reality is overshadowed by fictional buildup to create more drama and raise empathy for the characters. And, so is the case with the third-class passengers being portrayed to have locked below the deck while the ship was sinking and the first-class passengers being  allowed to board lifeboats, according to the screenplay. 

However, as per the real Titanic story each class had its own lifeboats and deck. The third-class accommodations and the rest of the ship were separated by gates only to prevent other passengers from immigrants who might have had infectious diseases since they were from Syria, China, Russia, Armenia, British Isles, Netherlands and Scandinavian countries.

Also, the process to keep immigrants separate was only till the ship reached Ellis Island where health check-ups of these people could be done. 

The music while the ship was sinking 

Sinking Music: Titanic Story

According to the movie, while the ship was sinking the musicians played the American version of the song “Nearer My God To Thee.” Though the musicians did play some music, it is still not confirmed what the final song was. 

While some  people say “Nearer My God To Thee” (British Version) was played, others say that a hymn called “Autumn”(American Version) was played. Nevertheless, both songs have the same words but the melodies are different.

Real-life hero William Murdoch turned to a villain


One of the most significant changes which Cameron did in the screenplay of Titanic was spinning off Murdoch’s character to that of a villain, where he was seen taking a bribe from Cal. He further shot two passengers who were attempting to board the last lifeboats, then shot himself in the head out of guilt.

Contrary to the movie,  Murdoch was a real-life hero of the ship who launched ten lifeboats to help the passengers before drowning. 

The fact that Murdoch was shown as a villain in the movie infuriated the First Officer’s family and people in his hometown Scotland, and they demanded an apology from the writer/director and production house (20th Century Fox). Hence, the vice president of the production company flew to Scotland and contributed money to a memorial prize in the sailor’s honour in an act to apologise to the relatives at a personal level.

‘The unsinkable Molly’

Molly: Titanic Story

The character of socialite Margaret Brown played by Kathy Bates, won fame after she allegedly commanded her lifeboat to reverse trajectory in order to save others in the ocean. 

Known posthumously as ‘The Unsinkable Molly,’ the real-life rich socialite even raised money for her fellow survivors using her notoriety and resources after the catastrophe. 

She was not well known before Titanic was released and came to be known only after her death in 1932. 

The sinking ship

Titanic Story

Although it looked fantastic on screen when the ship dramatically split into half but it can’t happen in reality. The ship can either sink vertically or fall back with a splash but both the things happening at the same time is not technically possible.

As per a report by USA Today Cameron said, “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.” He adds, “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.”

Hero and Featured Image: Courtesy Titanic/ IMDb

The true story behind James Cameron’s Titanic

Travel, lifestyle, wellness, and finance writer, Priyanshi is somebody who gorges on self-help and mythology reads, follows fitness trends, and stalks some famous travellers. She has two years of experience working with travel, hospitality, and tech companies. Travelling acts as a spark in her relationship with writing.

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