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What Happened To Cal In Titanic Is A Tragic Story Of Irony, Loss, And Death

The 1997 movie "Titanic" follows the fictional love story of society girl Rose DeWitt Bukater (Kate Winslet) and third-class drifter Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio). But their romance hits some bumps – and not just due to the sinking ship they're aboard. Rose comes onto the brand new RMS Titanic with a snobby, blue-blooded fiancé, Cal Hockley (Billy Zane).

Cal is ruthless regarding his rival. Even after Jack saves a distraught Rose from jumping off the ship, he goes out of his way to patronize him. "It's amazing. You could almost pass for a gentleman," he quips when a cleaned-up Jack joins the first-class passengers for a thank-you dinner. "A real man makes his own luck," he later says after learning Jack won a ticket to the Titanic via a lucky hand of poker. He also suggests Jack has no place in joining the other men for brandy and cigars. "Probably best. It's all business and politics, that sort of thing. Wouldn't interest you," he says.

Once the Titanic hits an iceberg and it's clear it's going down, Cal hides behind a child to get a seat on a lifeboat. "He didn't give a thought that he wasn't getting off that boat. [The sinking] was more of a nuisance, like, 'Whatever,'" Zane later told Vulture of his character. "It's only when he's up to his chest in ice water that he goes, 'Yeah, this is getting bad.' But certainly still confident that he will get off!"

Cal does get off the sinking boat and survives the tragedy, but his story does not have a happy ending.

Cal's social status plummeted years after the Titanic tragedy

The last time "Titanic" viewers see Cal Hockley, he's aboard the rescue ship the RMS Carpathia, and is looking to see if Rose has also survived. She spots him and carefully hides from him under a blanket as she mourns the death of her beloved Jack Dawson. But in present-day 1996, a now 101-year-old Rose (Gloria Stuart) gives an update on what happened to her former fiancé. Rose reveals that Cal inherited a fortune but didn't survive the Wall Street stock market crash of 1929. "That was the last time I ever saw him," Rose says of the Carpathia trip. "He married, of course. And inherited his millions. But the crash of '29 hit his interest hard, and he put a pistol in his mouth that year. Or so I read."

In the end, Cal ended up just as destitute as Jack Dawson and all of the other "lesser" men he once turned up his nose at. In a 2016 interview on the "Today Show," Billy Zane defended his character's villainous reputation. "He was misunderstood," he said. He also clapped back at the real-life hate he sometimes gets in public. "I was not the iceberg. I did not drown 2,000 people," the actor clarified. Zane also noted that maybe Rose should have stayed with Cal. "I think I think he found redemption by the end, and I wish he had found her on the Carpathia and was able to, you know, right his wrongs," the actor said.