Was Leonardo DiCaprio's character in 'Titanic' based off a real person?
James Cameron’s Titanic, based on the sinking of the titular ship, is an epic tale of romance told through the characters of Jack and Rose, played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.
Although their romance sank along with the Titanic, both the film and its characters remain pop-culture touchstones to this day.
Jack Dawson, in particular, has been a topic of discussion for a long time because of the uncanny resemblance of the character’s name with a passenger who was on the ill-fated maiden voyage of the ship.
Even though Cameron admitted the character to be fictional, a headstone with the name J. Dawson in Fairview Lawn Cemetery, a graveyard to many Titanic victims, remains a point of intrigue.
Who Was The Real J. Dawson?
The real J. Dawson is Joseph Dawson, whose headstone is sitting in Halifax, Nova Scotia, amongst many other souls that lost their lives in the tragic night of 1912.
Born in 1888, Dawson can be found in the 1901 census with his family living in Dublin. In 1912, Dawson signed with the Titanic to be a part of the crew.
Image of Joseph Dawson (Source: Facebook )
Unknown to the dark fate awaiting ahead, he boarded the ship as a trimmer. As the ship hit the iceberg, he was off duty and resting in his cabin. He rushed to the deck as soon as he woke and left the collapsing ship by swimming in the freezing water.
Unfortunately, his body gave up to hypothermia and was later recovered from the ocean. Joseph was buried in Halifax after no one claimed the body.
Besides the resemblance in their names, there are hardly any similarities between Joseph Dawson and DiCaprio’s character. Joseph was a worker who powered the ship by feeding coal while Jack was a lower-class passenger.
Cameron Accused of ‘Stealing The Story’
Although Titanic was an enormous success, the film faced some controversies regarding the characters.
A man from Florida, Stephen Cunning, who worked in the yacht industry, accused Cameron of stealing his story for the film. And claimed the character, Jack Dawson, to be his creation.
According to the yacht master, the depiction of the Titanic sinking was not based on history but instead on stories he told friends about two of his relatives who were on board the ship, out of whom the wife survived, but the husband did not.
Regarding this accusation, Cunning sued Cameron for compensation of $300 million and one percent of the film royalty.
Titanic, the first billion-dollar grossing movie at the box office, has faced few other such allegations over time.
No matter whose story it was, Titanic will always remain one of the most remarkable movies of all time and an ode to the power of cinema.