Get the latest from TODAY

Sign up for our newsletter
/ Source: TODAY
By Gina Vivinetto

Even moviegoers who have never seen "Titanic" know the 1997 blockbuster's most famous line — "I'm the king of the world!"

The exuberant phrase secured its place in our cultural lexicon — and became the inspiration for countless parodies — the moment we saw Jack Dawson, played by Leonardo DiCaprio, scream it from the doomed ship's bow.

Now, "Titanic" screenwriter and director James Cameron reveals the iconic line was never in the movie's script. "It was made up on the spot," Cameron said during an interview with BBC Radio 1's Ali Plumb. (Note that there's profanity in the video.)

"I was in a crane basket, and we were losing the light, and we had tried this and we had tried that and tried this line and that line, and nothing was really working," he explained, "and I literally was just coming up snake eyes."

"You gotta sell it," director James Cameron instructed Leonardo DiCaprio when he told him to scream "I'm the king of the world" from the doomed ship's bow. Courtesy Everett Collection

"I said, 'All right, I got one for you. Just say, "I'm the king of the world," and just spread your arms out wide and just be in the moment, and just love it and celebrate the moment,'" he recalled telling DiCaprio over walkie-talkies.

His star apparently wasn't so sure about the idea.

"(DiCaprio) goes, 'What?'" Cameron continued. "I said, '"I'm the king of the world," just say, "I'm the king of the world." But you gotta sell it.' He goes, 'What?' I said, 'Just f------ sell it!'"

DiCaprio, as Jack, and his co-star, Kate Winslet, as Rose, in 1997's "Titanic."AP

In the end, DiCaprio sold the line, and Cameron went on to win Academy Awards for best director and best picture for "Titanic," which won 11 Oscars overall.

But, when Cameron used the "I'm the king of the world" line himself during one of his Oscar speeches, viewers cringed. Years later, the director admitted it was the "wrong" choice.

"There's a hubris in assuming that everybody in the audience has seen your movie, even though you won. Or that they're actually all fans," Cameron told Vanity Fair in 2017.

"It was all phrased pretty carefully, but the error was that I was actually acting prideful about winning, and with a reference to my own film."