James Cameron Admits He Got the Sinking of the Titanic 'Sort of Half Right' in 1997 Blockbuster

National Geographic's special Titanic: 25 Years Later with James Cameron is streaming on Hulu

Titanic 25th Anniversary
Photo: Paramount Pictures

James Cameron has been on a decades-long mission to determine how accurately his 1997 film Titanic depicted the sinking of the actual RMS Titanic — and he's found Titanic was "wrong on one point or the other."

In the new National Geographic special Titanic: 25 Years Later with James Cameron, which aired on Sunday, Cameron, 68, determined that Titanic's re-creation of the real-life Titanic's 1912 tragic sinking was only "sort of half right." The Avatar director came to that assessment after a number of tests were conducted on model versions, with the use of computer simulations by the U.S. Navy, according to Entertainment Weekly.

"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 said in the special, per EW.

"Over the past 20 years, I've been trying to figure out if we got that right," he added.

1,500 people died when the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City in the early hours of April 15, 1912, after the ship struck an iceberg. Cameron's 1997 film sets the tragedy against a fictional romance on board between passengers Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet).

The director noted in the special that his depiction of how the ship actually sank might have differed from real life.

Titanic 25 Years Later With James Cameron James Cameron checks in on Josh Bird and Kristine Zipfel, who are exposed to frigid waters to test the impacts of hypothermia
National Geographic/Spencer Stoner

"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!" Cameron joked, per the outlet. He also said that the film's "dramatic image" of Titanic's stern sinking into the ocean was "as accurate as I could make it at the time."

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Tests Cameron conducted involved a model version of the ship that did split in the same place as the original Titanic. The director's team sank the model ship in a water tank with the use of rigging and pyrotechnics devices, as well as the Navy's computer simulations that determined the ship would have snapped in two after spouting 23 degrees out of the water, per EW.

Leonardo Dicaprio, James Cameron Titanic - 1997
20th Century Fox/Paramount/Kobal/Shutterstock

"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 said in the special. "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."

"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," the director added. "We were sort of half right in the movie."

Cameron's years-long dedication to studying the Titanic's sinking does not overlook the fact that "what happened there was a real tragedy," he said in the special.

"It happened to real people, and it still resonates down through time in this very powerful way," the director noted.

Titanic: 25 Years Later With James Cameron is now streaming on Hulu.

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