Have you seen the wholly unnecessary yet totally necessary movie event that is Titanic 3D? Were you so eager to re-experience The Biggest Movie Ever* (TBME) that you risked feeling more seasick on land than the characters who are actually on a boat, just to feel the spine-shivering, reflexive-moan-inducing thrill of Leomania once again? Do you wish to celebrate the centenary of the Titanic’s doomed voyage, except what kind of celebration is watching three hours of disaster porn with a lazy love story thrown in to make you care about the deaths of thousands of people? Most importantly, are you prepared for the inevitable introspection and consequent self-loathing that’s sure to follow the movie: wondering what the hell you’ve been doing with the last fifteen years of your life?
Thankfully, we can briefly distract ourselves from our follies and endless regret by catching up on what and how the folks involved in Titanic 2D have been doing: Leo and Kate are collecting Oscar noms like it ain’t no thang, Bill Paxton and Kathy Bates got their own TV shows, James Cameron made the highest-grossing movie ever (that, paradoxically, no one loves), and Billy Zane, uh, is doing some things also. Let’s return to 1997 and see what Leo et al were up to fifteen years ago, what they’ve been doing since, and what they’d be doing now if they hadn’t boarded the Titanic.
Who was he in ‘97? After Romeo + Juliet, DiCaprio was the golden boy who’d came out of nowhere to bump JTT and Devon Sawa off the covers of Tiger Beat. The Beat warned, though, that he was a Serious Actor who played Serious Roles in Serious Movies like What’s Eating Gilbert Grape? and Marvin’s Room.
What’s he done since TBME? Leo graduated from being Hollywood’s boy-king to king proper, becoming the male muse of Hollywood heavies like Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, and Quentin Tarantino.
And if he hadn’t boarded the Titanic? It’s easy to see Leo’s mainstream appeal fizzling out after R+J. After all, he didn’t star in a single successful movie for five years after TBME. With his widening face and apparent love of spotty facial hair, Leo would’ve transitioned to character actordom like Donal Logue, eventually becoming that guy in the Pussy Posse (because he would’ve done that no matter what) that the 18-year-old models who grew up watching High School Musical can’t quite place.
Who was she in ‘97? Sad to say it, but Winslet was a nobody as far as most of America was concerned, despite making critics swoon in Heavenly Creatures and Sense and Sensibility.
What’s she done since TBME? After being fat-shamed for, like, two whole years after Titanic, Winslet went Hollywood (albeit gradually) by slimming down, bleaching her hair, and ditching the indies for prestige pics like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Reader, and Revolutionary Road, which reunited her with Leo.
And if she hadn’t boarded the Titanic? Winslet’s too beautiful and too talented to have toiled in obscurity, but she might have stayed a voluptuous redhead without the post-Titanic scrutiny and ended up an indie staple like Chloë Sevigny or Catherine Keener instead of becoming the award hoarder/overachiever she is now. You’d love her because she was that really pretty chubby chick who’s always in adaptations of the dreary 19th-century British novels that keep piling up on your bookshelf, but then you’d wonder why every third movie she does is about the Holocaust, since she’s too much of an unknown to get nominated for an Oscar anyway.
Who was he in ‘97? Zane had a list of credits a mile long, but was never in anything anyone had heard of (Flashfire? Running Delilah? Betrayal of the Dove?).
What’s he done since TBME? The same thing he’s done since the early nineties – working nonstop and under the radar, being featured in three films a year but in nothing you’ve seen (Fishtales? Alien Agent? The Man Who Came Back?).
And if he hadn’t boarded the Titanic? Zane would still be the guy with the star-ready name and the non-starring roles. You and your sister would see him at the grocery store and note how much he looks like young Stanley Tucci, then go back to your place and watch Julie & Julia again because Stanley Tucci was really awesome in that.
Who was he in ‘97? Cameron was a blockbuster factory with sci-fi/action mega-hits like Terminator, Aliens, and True Lies.
What’s he done since TBME? He went full-on geek by making another movie about the Titanic (a 3-D underwater documentary), made a small indie with an unknown cast called Avatar, and recently became the first man to tweet from the bottom of the ocean.
And if he hadn’t boarded the Titanic? With the piles of money he made showcasing Arnold Schwarzenegger’s muscles, Cameron could’ve retired from showbiz and become Branson But Better, using his riches and tech-wizardry to fulfill every fantasy he had when he was twelve, like creating evil mutant hamsters in a lab so he can hunt them down on his private island with a custom-made laser gun and wise-cracking nunchucks (they’re sentient; it’s science). And you’d never see him waterskiing with a naked chick on his back.
Who was she in ‘97? Dion was already on her way to divahood on the strength of her thin blond ladyness, five-octave range and audiences’ never-ending love of cheese.
What’s she done since TBME? She released some more albums, became a Vegas attraction, and revealed the icky secret that she met her husband-manager when she was his twelve-year-old client.
And if she hadn’t boarded the Titanic? She was already a star, but she wouldn’t have become a superstar without “My Heart Will Go On” – certainly not enough to do five shows a week in Caesars Palace. Celine’s always craved stability (see above: daddy issues), so she would’ve landed a steady gig as an America’s Got Talent judge (what producer wouldn’t want that accent on his show?), with the cameras capturing every instance of her punching her chest, clawing the air, or doing the Arsenio.
* Technically, “the biggest movie ever” is James Cameron’s Avatar, but it loses the title by default because it doesn’t command the adoration and obsession that Titanic does. Also, because Avatar didn’t come out when you were thirteen and losing your shit every time you saw Leo’s face.