When discussing renowned ships globally, the name Titanic inevitably takes center stage. The term ‘Titanic’ evokes a sense of immense wonder, a sentiment brought to life on the silver screen in 1997 by the acclaimed director James Cameron. The unforgettable love story of Jack and Rose aboard the colossal ship, intertwined with its tragic demise as it succumbs to the ice, became an iconic tale. Departing from the science fiction genre, Cameron carved a niche for himself by blending romance and tragedy. Let’s delve into lesser-known aspects of the iconic Titanic film.
1. James Cameron’s Passion for the Titanic
James Cameron, the visionary director behind the Titanic film, has harbored a deep passion for ships since childhood. His enduring fascination with the Titanic, which sank in 1912, intensified after watching the documentary ‘Titanica’ (1992), which captured the wreckage with an IMAX camera. Cameron’s desire to delve beneath the ocean’s surface to witness the Titanic firsthand prompted him to propose a film on the subject. Twentieth Century Fox took the risk, given Cameron’s prior success with ‘Terminator 2.’ The movie not only came to life but also led Cameron to explore the actual wreckage underwater.
2. Casting Challenges and Choices
The casting process for Titanic faced numerous challenges. A multitude of actors auditioned for the role of Jack Dawson, including Christian Bale. Initially considering actors like Johnny Depp and Tom Cruise, Cameron’s first choice was River Phoenix, the older brother of Walkin Phoenix. However, River’s untimely death led to the eventual casting of Matthew McConaughey.
Famous actresses like Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Aniston, Cameron Diaz, Madonna, and Angelina Jolie auditioned for the role of Rose. Finally, Gwyneth Paltrow confirmed her place in this role. But none of these actresses were selected for the movie. This is because Kate Winslet was always after James like a leech to play this role. In this way, she melted James’s heart. It was Winslet who recommended DiCaprio’s name to James.
3. Behind the Famous Painting Scene
The iconic scene where Jack paints a nude Rose was among the first shots for Titanic. Interestingly, the hand seen in the scene was Cameron’s, showcasing his skill in sketching. All of Jack’s sketches in the film were drawn by Cameron himself. The famous sketch of Rose was later sold for $16,000 in 2012.
4. Historical Characters in Fiction
Around ten fictional characters coexisted with historical figures in the film, as Cameron aimed to seamlessly blend fiction with historical accuracy. Characters like Captain Edward Smith and Margaret Molly Brown were meticulously portrayed to make the fiction an integral part of history.
5. Crafting the Titanic on Set
To depict the Titanic inside the movie, James Cameron constructed a practical model set resembling the original ship. The film’s interior sets were constructed at Baja Studios in Mexico. Despite manipulations for cinematic purposes, meticulous attention to detail was paid, utilizing archives and designs from the original Titanic manufacturer, Harland and Wolff.
Also, Titanic historians Don Lynch and Ken Marshall were hired to see if this film was being made according to history. Artisans were hired from Mexico and America to build many of the props and furniture. A historian was also hired to explain the 1912 behavior of the film’s artists.
6. Challenging Scenes and Set Incidents
The climactic scene depicting the ship splitting and submerging required a 45-foot-tall model ship and 1.3 million liters of water. Filming in water led to health issues for the cast, with Kate Winslet suffering from hypothermia. A total of 1.9 million liters of water were needed to sink the entire interior of the ship.
7. Unforeseen Setback: Crew Illness
During filming, 80 crew members fell ill, initially thought to be shellfish poisoning but later revealed to be a conspiracy involving PCP in the lunch. The culprit, suspected to be a former crew member, was never caught.
8. Unplanned Musical Success
The renowned song ‘My Heart Will Go On’ was not originally intended for the film, as Cameron insisted on no music. However, composer James Horner secretly created the song with Celine Dion, surprising Cameron and ultimately earning an Oscar.
9. Inspiration from Titanic’s Wreckage
The platform seen at the end of the movie, where Rose and Jack float, was inspired by a model of the original Titanic’s Oden paneling found in the wreckage, now preserved at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Nova Scotia, Canada.
10. Budget Woes and Box Office Triumph
In the beginning, Cameron told the production house that he could complete the work on this movie with a budget of 80 million dollars. Because James prioritizes quality over quantity, wanting everything edited to perfection, this budget was tight. Another production company, Paramount Pictures, gave James another $65 million. However, due to various costs, including marketing and promotion, its budget reached $200 million, which was the most expensive movie of that time. The production company was a bit apprehensive about this movie, pouring in extra money. Cameron was therefore told that if the movie failed at the box office, he would not be paid his $8 million fee. Despite apprehensions, it became the first film to cross the $1 billion mark at the box office, grossing $2.1 billion worldwide.
11. Oscar Success
Titanic surprised the Oscars by garnering 14 nominations and winning 11 categories, marking its place among the world’s best cult classics.