James Cameron’s Titanic celebrated being released for over two decades recently, and viewers sometimes wonder how accurate the movie is to real-life events. The main character in the film, Rose Dewitt Bukater Calvert, was not a real person, though she was based upon one.
Like other films based upon true stories, Cameron was able to take real-life events and dramatize them in a way that was accessible and interesting for audiences. According to Paul Burns, vice president and curator for the Titanic Museum Attractions in Missouri and Tennessee, Cameron wanted to “surround Jack and Rose, particularly in first class, with real passengers.”
The film’s historian, Don Lynch, says Cameron picked out the people in advance when writing the script. Lynch advised actors about their historical characters’ accents, behaviors, personalities and more while on set for the movie. The main characters, however, were not based on historical figures.
Was Rose from ‘Titanic’ Based on a Real Person?
While Rose wasn’t a real historical person, Kate Winslet did have some real life inspiration to lean on, according to Bustle. The character Rose was based on an inspirational woman named Beatrice Wood.
Wood was an artist during her life, and she lived life to the fullest. She was born in San Francisco in 1893 to wealthy parents, but she was a rebel from the very start. Much like Rose’s character, Wood wanted to do her own thing and not always listen to what her parents wanted her to do.
Because she wanted to be a painter, Wood spent time in Paris as an artist and performer, which led her to meeting the wrong men. She ran away from her chaperone when she was attending the Academy Julian in Giverny, France, and moved to an attic room that could only be accessed by a ladder and lined the walls with her own canvasses.
“My mother, of course, heard I’d run away from this old lady of thirty, and came down to find me,” she later recalled. “And I can still see her climbing this ladder with her high-heel shoes. She was very elegant, with a black satin dress with real hand embroidery at her throat and a wonderful hat with feathers. And she said, ‘Look at the cobwebs.’ And I never said a word. And she took me back to Paris.”
She then turned her attention to theater and took private acting and dance lessons, but she later moved back to New York where she joined the French National Repertory Theater.
“I wanted to go on the stage,” Beatrice said. “Not because I was stage-struck, but to earn money so that I could get away from home. Because I was a good little girl. Nothing is more revolting.”
She later became an actor and studied ceramics in the 1930s.
Wood lived until she was 105 years old, and at the time of her death, the New York Times reported that she attributed her long life to “chocolate and young men.”
Cameron Drew Inspiration From Beatrice Wood
Though Wood was not on the Titanic, Cameron claimed that her vivacious and rebellious characteristics inspired him to write Rose as she appears in the film.
When he was writing the film, Cameron even called her and asked if he could use her as inspiration. He wanted to interview her and use her as a model for the character even though she had no connection to the Titanic itself.
In his book James Cameron: Interviews, Cameron writes that Wood told him “Oh, I couldn’t possibly do that because I’m only 35.” She was 102 years old at the time of the call. She was invited to attend the premiere, but she was too ill.
Cameron and Gloria Stuart dined with Wood and presented her with the movie, but she never watched it because she believed it would be sad and it was too late in her life to be sad.
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