The Cast is Spot-On for the Time Period
Leonardo DiCaprio was the spitting image of Peter Parker in the mid-90s. That alone was enough to get comic book fans excited at the prospect of him playing Spider-Man. Nineties comics magazines like Wizard seemed to devote almost every other issue to campaigning for him to get the part at the time.
And in Titanic, we basically got Leo’s take on a young Peter Parker. He’s a poor kid who’s skilled at drawing (the 1912 equivalent of photography) who proves himself a hero and saves the day… or at least saves the sexy redhead.
And Kate Winslet’s hair color is another interesting piece of evidence for this theory. Winslet is naturally a blonde. So why did James Cameron want her to dye her hair red for the part of Rose in Titanic? Could it have been to make her look more like Mary Jane Watson, Peter Parker’s famous redheaded girlfriend/wife?
Mary Jane never came from a rich family in the comics, but during the ’90s, the era when Titanic was made, she had a career as a fashion model, a job that often meant hanging around with wealthier people, and a job that sometimes made Peter feel uncomfortable. And she would wear more expensive jewelry. Maybe like The Heart of the Ocean?
And in one of the most famous scenes in Titanic, Rose poses nude while Jack draws her. It’s basically the early 20th century equivalent of Peter Parker taking photos of his supermodel wife.
But the perfect casting for a Spider-Man movie doesn’t end with just Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.
Billy Zane plays Rose’s fiance, Cal. He’s a rich heir to an industrial empire who industrial empire who is slowly driven mad by the relationship between Rose and Jack, eventually trying to kill Jack. He even has a bodyguard played by actor David Warner who could be any number of Spider-Man villains. I like to think of him as The Vulture though.
So Cal is basically Harry Osborn, Peter Parker’s best friend who loses his mind and becomes the Green Goblin. A lot of his story line was even recycled in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3.
There was one final actress in Titanic who would have fit perfectly in a Spider-Man movie. The 87-year-old Gloria Stuart played Rose in the modern day. She was frail yet lucid and had a quiet strength that inspired and guided the treasure hunters she met with. She didn’t have a nephew, or even interact with Leonardo DiCaprio on-screen, but she had all the qualities of Peter Parker’s loving Aunt May. In fact, I’d say she was a better Aunt May than either of the other actresses who have played that part so far.
An Imperfect Theory
Admittedly, there are some problems with this theory. The plot of Titanic doesn’t quite echo the theme of “with great power comes great responsibility” that we expect from a Spider-Man film. Jack doesn’t have an uncle killed by a robber or get bitten by a radioactive spider. There are a lot of characters who don’t seem to be based on any major Spider-Man characters (though there are also quite a few historical characters in Titanic who that wouldn’t make sense for).
And the storyline of Titanic is also pretty far off from the James Cameron script that featured Electro and the Sandman. The Green Goblin isn’t even in Cameron’s treatment.
But the idea here isn’t necessarily that James Cameron purposely set out to make Spider-Man on a boat, but that at the very least he was so influenced by his work on the Spider-Man movie he couldn’t put it out of his head when he worked on Titanic, and this had a strong influence on who he cast in the lead roles and the characters they portrayed.
Keep the Spider-Man theory in mind the next time you watch Titanic. You might be surprised about the similarities you pick up on.