The Real Story Behind One of Leonardo DiCaprio's Most Famous Titanic Scenes

James Cameron talked to BBC Radio 1 about an iconic moment in the 1997 movie and how the actor responded when asked to film it.

By Corinne Heller Feb 08, 2019 5:53 PMTags
Leonardo DiCaprio, TitanicParamount Pictures / 20th Century Fox

It was the line that launched a thousand parodies.

Oscar-winning director James Cameron recently reminisced about making his 1997 Oscar-winning movie Titanic and recalled star Leonardo DiCaprio's reaction to being asked to shout his character Jack's iconic line, "I'm the king of the world!" The line, which he screams from the bow of the ship, is not in the film's script and for years, it was believed that the actor adlibbed it on his own.

"It was made up on the spot," Cameron, who was also Titanic's screenwriter, confirmed to BBC Radio 1's Ali Plumb in an interview released this week. "I was in a crane basket, and we were losing the light, and we had tried this and tried that and tried this line and that line, and nothing was really working, and I literally was just coming up snake eyes, and I said, 'All right, I got one for you. Just say, 'I'm the king of the world,' and just spread your arms out wide and just be in the moment, and just love it and celebrate the moment.'"

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"And [DiCaprio] goes, 'What?'" Cameron continued. "I'm getting this over the walkie-talkie. 'What?' I said, ''I'm the king of the world,' just say, 'I'm the king of the world.' But you gotta sell it.' He goes, 'What?' I said, 'Just f--king sell it!'"

Cameron would go on to win Best Director and then Best Picture for Titanic.

Paramount Pictures / 20th Century Fox

In his acceptance speech for the former, he exclaimed into the microphone, "I'm the king of the world!"

His speech was met with mixed reactions.

"I now realize what was wrong with my choice to do that," Cameron told Vanity Fair. "It wasn't the exact content of the line as much as the fact that I was quoting my own movie, and I didn't realize how that was wrong....There's a hubris in assuming that everybody in the audience has seen your movie, even though you won. Or that they're actually all fans. It was all phrased pretty carefully, but the error was that I was actually acting prideful about winning, and with a reference to my own film."