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Pop Culture | Movies | 90s

One Of The Saddest Scenes In 'Titanic' Was Improvised, And The Story Is Totally Heartbreaking

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With Titanic back in theaters this month, it's worth reflecting on why we still love this movie so much after 20 years.

Part of its appeal is that we manage to discover something new in the film each time we watch it. In the past, we shared the incredible true love story behind the couple lying on a bed as the boat sinks, and recently Kate Winslet spilled the beans about the actor who almost played Jack.

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But it turns out there was a touching real life story hiding in one of the movie's smallest scenes. The surprising story comes courtesy of actress Jenette Goldstein, who played the Irish mother-of-two seen throughout the movie but only named "Irish Mommy" in the credits.

The character's most memorable scene, and one of her few lines, comes when the ship is sinking. She tucks her two children into bed, and reads them a bed time story. Here's the ending that the audience hears:

"And so they lived happily together for 300 years, in the land of Tír na nÓg, the land of eternal youth and beauty."

It's a real tearjerker, and it makes Goldstein's character memorable even though her part is so small. But it turns out Goldstein improvised the scene herself, and there's a real life story behind her performance.

Fans of James Cameron's sci-fi movie Aliens will recognize Goldstein as Private Vasquez.

Goldstein as Private Vasquez.Brandywine Productions

That part earned her an invitation from Cameron to audition for a role in Titanic, and the actress gravitated to "Irish Mommy" as soon as she read the part.

“That mother, her focus was making sure her children were calm and happy — knowing they were going to die," Goldstein remembers, "I mean, my god, I'm getting chills right now. Those scenes are fantastic.”

And Goldstain says she had "no trouble" putting herself in that frame of mind, because she lived through the massive 1994 Los Angeles earthquake with her son.

Goldstein in 'Titanic.'Paramount Pictures

"I was a single parent, my son was in the bed with [me], and it felt like a bomb was going off," she told Good Housekeeping.

"I got him out of the bed and stood under the doorway, and he was asleep and I was holding him, and I wanted to scream, but I didn't, because the same thought [that my character has in Titanic] was in my head: We're gonna die. Let him die while sleeping. Don't scream. So that was the easy part. The hard part was, during the scene, trying not to cry.”

And while the script only said "she tells them a bedtime story," Goldstein asked the Irish actors on set what she should tell the kids. They settled on the fitting story about Tír na nÓg.

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But she also revealed that the actor playing her young son didn't quite get the point of the scene.

Once they were done, he asked Goldstein when they were shooting the scene “where we get onto the boats and escape."

"Uhhhh, talk to your mom," she answered.

It seems like every scene in this movie has an amazing story to tell!