Titanic has one of the all-time great endings in movies. After recounting the events of the great ship’s sinking, the narrative returns to its frame story in the present, where the elderly Titanic survivor Rose (played by Gloria Stuart) has been aiding a treasure hunter, played by Bill Paxton, in the search for a priceless diamond necklace called “The Heart of the Ocean.” Without any further leads, the treasure hunter finally calls off the search — and then we discover that Rose had held on to the Heart of the Ocean for all these decades. When no one is looking one night, she goes to the rail of the treasure hunter’s ship, and drops it into the water, letting it rest with the remains of the Titanic. Cue the James Horner music and a million tears.

At least that’s the ending we saw. Writer/director James Cameron originally conceived a very different conclusion. Rose still drops the Heart of the Ocean into the water, but she’s not alone when she does it. Instead, Paxton’s character, Rose’s granddaughter, and other members of the ship’s crew discover her and try to stop her. Then she lectures them on how life is the only true treasure. She even lets Paxton hold the diamond one time before she impishly tosses the thing into the water. Watch the sequence below (via Digg):

Before he passed away, Paxton talked about shooting this ending with Yahoo!

Oh, Jesus ... Jim, when he designed the film, he thought when you make a period movie, he said the first thing you have to address is ‘How does it speak to a contemporary audience? How do they connect to it?’ You know, the love story is timeless, and they’ll relate to that. But what he thought was, let’s set the table in a way so that we give them a contemporary context, and then we go back.

Paxton also quipped that he “would have shot heroin to make the scene work better.”

In the end, Cameron realized the way to make it work better was to make it simpler. He removed the extra characters and made it a quiet moment with just the old Rose.

Good thing he did; there’s no way Titanic becomes the biggest film in history with Gloria Stuart giving Bill Paxton a lecture about what’s important in life.

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