James Cameron’s 1997 romantic epic Titanic is one of the most iconic films of the ’90s, reimagining the mythology of an infamous global disaster through an unforgettable love story. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio as a poor artist opposite Kate Winslet, who plays the role of a rebellious aristocrat who falls in love despite the prohibitions of class barriers.
Inspired by the major historical event with actual footage of the wreck of the original Titanic, Cameron’s film is an attempt to deconstruct the anthropological arrogance of humanity when confronted by the immutable forces of nature. In addition to its immense popularity, Titanic received major accolades, including 11 Academy Awards, among other prizes.
While looking back on the production process, Cameron reflected: “I had dark hours on Titanic as dire as Piranha II. We missed the iceberg by that much. But I’m at my best when I’m neck-deep in ice water trying to work out how we’re going to keep the lights turned on when the water hits the bulbs.”
Adding, “Titanic was conceived as a love story. If I could have done it without one effect, I would’ve been happy. It was definitely a goal to integrate a very personal, emotional style with spectacle – and try to make that not be chocolate syrup on a cheeseburger, you know. The cathartic experience is what made the film work.”
One of the most beloved scenes in the film is the one in which Jack (DiCaprio) sketches a nude portrait of Rose (Winslet), signifying a fascinating and erotic moment of liberation from the confinement of societal roles. This moment popularised the iconic line, “Draw me like one of your French girls”, which has now become an essential part of the meme culture in the 21st century, spawning countless jokes.
The real story behind the scene is an interesting revelation about Cameron’s vision. Instead of DiCaprio sketching the scandalous nude portrait of Winslet, it was actually James Cameron who drew the sketch himself because he wanted to get it absolutely right. The drawing was reportedly sold for around $16,000, but neither the concluding price nor the identity of the person who bought it was revealed.
In a discussion about the scene, Cameron said: “You know what it means for her, the freedom she must be feeling. It’s kind of exhilarating for that reason… It wasn’t by any kind of design, although I couldn’t have designed it better. There’s a nervousness and an energy and a hesitance in them. They had rehearsed together, but they hadn’t shot anything together. If I’d had a choice, I probably would have preferred to put it deeper into the body of the shoot.”
Want to be drawn like a French girl? Ask James Cameron.