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Was there room for Jack? The most controversial prop in cinema sells for $700,000.

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Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet may have starred the protagonists of “Titanic,” but many fans of the 1997 blockbuster consider an ornate piece of driftwood to be the film’s hero.

It was at the top of this wooden panel (often mistaken for a door) that the fictional Rose promised Jack “I’ll never let go”, before hanging on for her life as she – spoiler warning – looked on her frozen buddy sank into the ocean while she floated to survival.

Last week, this piece of Hollywood history resurfaced at an auction in Dallas where it beat out Harrison Ford’s iconic whip from the “Indiana Jones” franchise ($525,000) and the ax that Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance held up in “The Shining” ($125,000) as the most expensive item in a four-day memorabilia auction sold by Planet Hollywood.

The winning bid for the balsa wood prop called “Hero Floating Wood Panel”: $718,750.

Heritage Auctions, which manages a line of expensive collectibles, said in a statement that the Treasures From Planet Hollywood event was its most successful movie prop auction, bringing in a total of $15.68 million. dollars; it ranks among the highest-grossing Hollywood memorabilia auctions in the industry’s history.

“The extraordinary success of this auction proves what I have known all along: the interest and appetite for modern film props and costumes – all of which were once exhibited at Planet Hollywoods around the world or were part of their legendary archives – is deep, deep. and insatiable,” Heritage Auctions Executive Vice President Joe Maddalena said in a statement.

Bidding on the prop started at $60,000 and topped $700,000 in six minutes, with the auctioneer enticing potential bidders by reminding them of the prop’s importance to the plot.

“That’s it, it’s goodbye,” said the auctioneer. “Before this scene, it was an adventurous love story! Now it becomes the tragic love story, Romeo and Juliet.

In the crucial and much-dissected scene, Rose and Jack’s characters grab the floating debris and attempt to hoist themselves onto it before it flips over. Then, Jack helps Rose climb onto the sign as it floats in the water, clinging to the edge.

This polarizing scene has prompted fans over the years to speculate that the panel was large enough to accommodate both Rose and Jack and that DiCaprio’s character could have lived on if only Rose had made room.

Director James Cameron tried to put an end to the criticism, telling the Daily Beast in 2017: “Look, it’s very, very simple: you read page 147 of the script and it says: ‘Jack leaves the picture and gives her his place so that she can survive.’ »

Cameron has returned to the controversy several times over the years, even appearing on “MythBusters“, where the show’s hosts did an experiment to prove that if the characters tied Rose’s life jacket under the door for added buoyancy, then supported their bodies more upright on the board, both would have survived.

“The script says Jack dies. He has to die,” Cameron said in the episode. “So maybe we made a mistake, and the board should have been a little bit smaller, but the guy is falling.”

Cameron’s remarks did little to quell internet chatter, so in 2023 he attempted to put an end to the problem for good by commission a study to definitively prove that only one of the characters could have survived.

In a interview with the Toronto Sun, Cameron detailed a study that used stuntmen and hypothermia experts to recreate the scene from the film – an experiment timed for the release of a remastered version of the film.

For all the interest the panel has inspired from a fictional story, the prop itself is based on an actual artifact from the Titanic. Cameron had the item designed to resemble original paneling after visiting the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Nova Scotia, according to the Canadian museum. website. Researchers believe the wood came from an oak panel that surrounded the door frame above the entrance to the Titanic’s first class lounge.

What caused the winning bidder to pay more than $700,000 for a balsa wood accessory remains a mystery. The winner, who was present at Heritage’s Dallas headquarters for the auction, was addressed by the auctioneer only as “Mr.” Green.”

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