James Cameron’s epic 1997 romance Titanic celebrates its 20th anniversary on December 19, and there will certainly be a lot to celebrate: 11 Oscars, more than $2 billion in total lifetime gross (soon to be more—it’s been re-released in theaters across America starting December 1) and countless re-enactments at open-bar holiday parties.
So in preparation for its anniversary, here are a few little-known facts about Titanic.
1. Kate Winslet originally auditioned with Matthew McConaughey.
Winslet recently made the revelation to Stephen Colbert: “I auditioned with Matthew, isn’t that weird? Never said that in public before. I auditioned with Matthew, which was completely fantastic. It just wouldn’t have been the whole, Jack and Rose, Kate and Leo thing.”
2. Unlike the majority of the cast, Winslet didn’t wear a wetsuit for the water scenes—and it gave her hypothermia.
Vogue published Winslet’s diaries from set in 1997, which revealed she turned down the use of a wetsuit from her designer. She said Cameron didn’t want “a wet T-shirt contest” but did want her dress to cling to her in the water.
3. But James Cameron claims the water on set was “warm.”
“The water in the tank was about 80 degrees, so it was really like a pool,” Cameron told People in 2012. “All of the cold, frigid breath was added later.” Huh. Tell that to Winslet’s hypothermia.
4. Jack’s nude drawing of Rose was actually drawn by Cameron.
Winslet told Colbert the director had her pose in a bathing suit for him so he could get the sketch.
5. The cast and crew were drugged with PCP during production.
This is true: Someone spiked the craft services’ chowder with the hallucinogenic phencyclidine and about 50 cast and crew, including Cameron, were rushed to the hospital in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. (Everyone was fine when the drugs wore off, but some were crying and vomiting from the effects.)
No one ever found out who did it, but rumor has it there were two disgruntled food-service employees who didn’t like the way they were treated on the production.
6. When Rose meets Jack in the final scene of the film, the clock on the staircase behind them reads the exact time the ship sank.
Aka, 2:20 a.m. It’s the little things!
7. There’s a real J. Dawson who died on the real RMS Titanic.
But his name is Joseph Dawson, not Jack Dawson. Cameron didn’t know about it when he wrote the film, but now Joseph Dawson’s grave in Halifax, Nova Scotia, is visited by fans every year.
8. That older couple who die together are based the co-owner of Macy’s and his wife, who died on the real RMS Titanic.
This one was an intentional move by Cameron. Isidor and Ida Straus were a well-known German-American couple—Isidor was the co-owner of Macy’s department store—who really died together when the Titanic sank.
9.Titanic was the worldwide highest-grossing film of all time from 1998 until 2010, when Cameron’s next film, Avatar, surpassed it.
Now Titanic sits at the No. 2 spot on the list with $2,187,210,904.
10. It’s still tied for most Academy Awards won by a single picture.
That’s 11 Oscars, which makes Titanic tied with Ben-Hur (1959) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003).
11. Leonardo DiCaprio almost turned down the role.
According to Cameron, the director had to talk DiCaprio into it—because Jack wasn’t a tormented enough character. Hopefully, Cameron didn’t promise him an Oscar!
12. Cameron is fed up with fans saying there was room for Jack on the door.
“Obviously it was an artistic choice, the thing was just big enough to hold her, and not big enough to hold him,” Cameron told Vanity Fair last month. “I think it’s all kind of silly, really, that we’re having this discussion 20 years later.” In other words, shut up about the door, already!