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James Cameron's epic movie 'Titanic' was released 25 years ago

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The movie "Titanic" was released 25 years ago today. It starred Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet and became the first movie to gross $1 billion.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The special effects of the late 1990s are part of what made this James Cameron film a blockbuster.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TITANIC")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As characters, screaming).

REBECCA KEEGAN: One of the big kind of changes that he ushered in was the use of digital visual effects. If you watch "Titanic" closely, you'll see that there are little, tiny, digital stunt people that go tumbling off the ship. It was not common at all when Cameron did it in the '90s. It was pretty cutting-edge.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TITANIC")

LEONARDO DICAPRIO: (As Jack) Come on, I've got you.

INSKEEP: Rebecca Keegan is the author of "The Futurist," a biography of James Cameron, and says the movie's appeal went way beyond the visual.

KEEGAN: It was actually a phenomenon that was particularly popular among teenage girls, which was to go see it and have crying parties. There was this just enormous catharsis, this kind of need to cry that people seemed to have that "Titanic" fulfilled.

MARTÍNEZ: But Keegan says it's unlikely we'll see a movie like "Titanic" again.

KEEGAN: It was the beginning of the era for digital visual effects. It was the beginning of the era for people falling in love with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet. But it was the end of an era for a certain kind of ambitious, romantic Hollywood filmmaking.

INSKEEP: A quarter-century later, there's still a big debate about something that happened at the end of this movie.

MARTÍNEZ: Yeah, a 25-year-old spoiler alert here. Did Jack have to brave the icy water and die to save Rose? Or was that hunk of wood big enough for the both of them to survive?

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TITANIC")

KATE WINSLET: (As Rose) Jack?

KEEGAN: Cameron says he actually figured out the physics of this and that had Jack gotten onto the door with Rose, the door would have sunk. So they both would have died.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "TITANIC")

WINSLET: (As Rose) Jack?

MARTÍNEZ: You hear that? It was out of selfless love and, I guess, physics.

INSKEEP: And at least their love will go on.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MY HEART WILL GO ON")

CELINE DION: (Singing) You're here. There's nothing I fear. And I... Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.