5 Things You Didn't Know About 'Titanic'

Learn secrets about the film, including why Leonardo DiCaprio didn't want to do the movie and why Kate Winslet's arms needed to be shaved

Photo: Everett

The youthful star-crossed lovers in 1997's Titanic — played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet — helped propel James Cameron's epic blockbuster into box-office history. The film scored 11 Oscars and has earned over $2.2 billion worldwide over several releases.

Titanic was converted to 3D and re-released to theaters on April 4, 2012 to mark the 100th anniversary of the real sea disaster. At the time, PEOPLE spoke with Winslet and Cameron about their memories of the film — and the few surprises they revealed about making this epic that continues to live on.

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1. Leonardo DiCaprio almost passed on the role

The actor, then 21, was reluctant to take on such a traditional, romantic leading-man part. "His character doesn't go through torment, and Leo previously and subsequently in his career was always looking for that dark cloud," explained Cameron. "It became my job to convince him that it was a challenge to do what Gregory Peck and Jimmy Stewart did in previous generations, to stand there and be strong and hold the audience's eye without seeming to do very much. Only when I convinced him that was actually the harder thing to do that he got excited."

2. The water was warm (for a few reasons)

Cameron acknowledged that the seven-month shoot was intense – but says the soggy scenes weren't as hard on his actors as it appears on film. "The water in the tank was about 80 degrees, so it was really like a pool," he said. "All of the cold, frigid breath was added later." And what about reports that Cameron forbid his stars from leaving the water tank for hours at a time, even to use the bathroom? "Everyone could go to the toilet, but they were encouraged not to go in the tank — which I think was happening!"

3. Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio had a tough time watching the film years later

"My American accent is appalling!" said Winslet — who went on to earn an Oscar in 2008 for The Reader — of her breakthrough performance. "Here we are 15 years on, and I've learnt so much more, not just about myself but the job that I do and the world of film, and I look at myself in Titanic and I wish I could bring all this knowledge that I now have into that." As for DiCaprio (an Oscar winner in 2016 for The Revenant), "I just saw Leo a few months ago and I showed him 18 minutes of the film converted to 3D," said Cameron. "We had a good reminisce and, of course, he was guffawing at what a kid he was in the movie. I think he hadn't seen it in a while and seeing it on a big screen, he was literally just snorting into his hands at one point."

4. Kate Winslet had a shaving emergency mid-shoot

In the scene when Rose is about to jump ship, "there's a bit where Leo takes my hand, and because of the way Jim was lighting this particular shot, the light was catching all the little hairs on my arm," said Winslet. "He was like, 'Okay, we're going to have to shave your arm.' So we stop filming and the makeup artist has a Bic razor and some Gillette shaving foam. It was hilarious. That I really remember."

5. Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet hit it off instantly

"They were very chummy and relied on each other quite a bit," Cameron recalled of his young stars. Although Winslet teasingly said that a boyish DiCaprio was "useless" during filming when it came to keeping a watchful eye on her, he did come through in a key moment. "When we did the underwater footage at the end, Leo was a certified scuba diver at that point and I was not," she said. "He really did look after me. He was totally brilliant — he wouldn't leave my side."

* Reporting by MONIQUE JESSEN

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