37 Intriguing Things Behind James Cameron's Titanic

James Cameron's epic blockbuster about the most famous naval disaster in history is itself rich in stories about it's creation. Here's 37 facts you probably didn't know about Titanic.


1. The movie cost more to make than the construction of the real Titanic itself. When finished construction in 1912 the cost was 1.5 million, equivalent to $120-$150 million 1997 dollars. The movie cost $200 million.



2. The first Best Picture Academy Award winner to be produced, directed, written, and edited by the same person. James Cameron!


3. Gloria Stuart, who plays Rose in the 1990's, became the oldest person ever nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the age of 87. Makeup was used to age her to be a centenarian, a process she found deeply unpleasant.


4. Most of the stuntmen in the engine room scenes were only about 5 feet tall to make the engine room look a lot bigger.

5. Leonardo DiCaprio ad-libbed the now famous line "I'm the king of the world!", which was voted #4 in "The 100 Greatest Movie Lines" by Premiere in 2007.


6. Kate Winslet was one of the few actors who didn't want to wear a wetsuit during the water scenes. As a result, she got pneumonia, and nearly quit the production. However, James Cameron persuaded her to stay.


7. After finding out that she had to be naked in front of Leonardo Dicaprio, Kate Winslet decided to break the ice, and when they first met, she flashed him.


8. The movie was played so often for so long, Paramount had to send out replacement reels to cinemas that had literally worn out their copies.


9. The scenes set in 1912, i.e. the whole movie except the present-day scenes and the opening and ending credits, have a total length of two hours and forty minutes, the exact time it took for Titanic to sink. Also, the collision with the iceberg reportedly lasted 37 seconds, which is how long the collision scene is in the movie.


10. In the scene where the water comes crashing into the Grand Staircase room, the film makers only had one shot at it because the entire set and furnishings were going to be destroyed in the shot.


11. James Cameron went on the dives to the real Titanic himself, and found it an overwhelming emotional experience to actually see it. He ended up spending more time with the ship than its living passengers did. He joked later that the movie was just an excuse to journey to it's wreck.


12. The hands seen sketching Rose are not Leonardo Dicaprio's, but director James Cameron's. In post-production, Cameron, who is left-handed, mirror-imaged the sketching shots so the artist would appear to be right-handed, like DiCaprio.



13. When Jack prevents Rose from committing suicide, he shares a story about how he once fell into freezing cold water while ice fishing and how "it hits you like a thousand knives stabbing you all over your body." This was an actual quote from a Titanic survivor describing the temperature of the North Atlantic water.


14. Titanic survivor Millvina Dean was asked if she would like to attend the premiere but she refused, stating that watching A Night To Remember, a previous movie about the Titanic, was painful enough.


15. The first film to be released on video (DVD/VHS) while it was still being shown in theaters.


16. When James Cameron decided to include real footage of the Titanic's remains on the seabed, he did not want to simply shoot from inside a submersible as had been done for the IMAX documentary Titanica (1995). To allow filming from outside the sub, Cameron's brother Mike Cameron and Panavision developed a deep-sea camera system capable of withstanding the 400 atmospheres of pressure at that depth.


17. The staircase is not technically accurate, being slightly larger in the film than it was in real life. This is because people in 1997 were a bit taller than in 1912 so they would have looked out of place on a staircase that fit the correct dimensions.


18. Only the starboard side of the titanic set was built, so scenes taking place on the port side of the ship are flipped.


19. Most of the ocean which extras were jumping into was 3 feet deep.


20. Robert De Niro was offered the role of Captain Smith but turned it down due to a gastrointestinal infection at the time.


21. James Cameron forfeited his $8 million director's salary and his percentage of the gross when the studio became concerned at how much over budget the movie was running.


22. James Cameron was adamant about not including any song in the film, even over the closing credits. Composer James Horner secretly arranged with lyricist Will Jennings and singer Celine Dion to write "My Heart Will Go On" and record a demo tape which he then presented to Cameron, who responded very favourably and included the song over the closing credits. The song went on to win the Academy Award for Best Original Song.



23. Rose, in her old age, owns a Pomeranian. A Pomeranian was one of only three dogs known to have survived the disaster. As the real ship sank, a passenger freed dogs from their kennels and a survivor later recalled a French bulldog swimming in the ocean. James Cameron filmed scenes portraying the doomed animals but cut them.


24. In preference to hiring new extras all the time and repeatedly having to fit them for clothes and coach them in proper 1912 mannerisms, a group of 150 "core extras" was hired who would stay with the picture through the entire production. They and other performers learned proper 1912 behaviour in a 3-hour course from Lynne Hockney, who was also the film's choreographer. Hockney also produced a video "Titanic Etiquette: A Time Traveler's Guide", which was then left playing continuously in the wardrobe department.



25. In the movie, Jack is a 3rd class passenger on the Titanic who sneaks his way up to first class with the hopes of never getting caught. In the real disaster in 1912, Third Class Passenger Hilda Maria Hellstrm, really did sneak up to first class out of curiosity and never got caught, however she was in her 3rd class cabin when the Titanic hit an iceberg and ended up surviving the sinking by boarding one of the last lifeboats to leave, Collapsible C.


26. There was a scene storyboarded, in which Rose was to walk off the Carpathia and disappear into the crowds. Since the budget had run so high, however, James Cameron had to cut this scene due to the expense of having almost 1,000 extras brought to New York to film just 30-seconds.


27. The first class lounge was deemed to be too expensive a set to be built. As a miniature of it was required for the flooding scenes, one was built to quarter of the real size. This was then green screened as background for the scenes where the actors were seen sitting in the lounge.


28. In a 2012 interview on MTV News, shortly before the movie was re-released in 3D, Kate Winslet admitted that she strongly dislikes the song "My Heart Will Go On," which was recorded by Celine Dion and prominently included in the film. She said about it, "I wish I could say, 'Oh listen, everybody! It's the Celine Dion song!' But I don't. I just have to sit there, you know, kind of straight-faced with a massive internal eye roll... It haunts me."


29. In 2012, Entertainment Weekly reported that when the movie was re-released in 3D, James Cameron didn't update any effects or fix any errors except one. When astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson, director of New York's Hayden Planetarium, first saw the movie in its original theatrical release, he noticed that the configuration of stars in the night sky during Rose's night in the water bore no resemblance to what the sky really looked like over that place on that night (and, in fact, the same incorrect set of stars had just been duplicated in post-production). Tyson wrote a letter to Cameron explaining the error; several years later, upon meeting Cameron in person, Tyson repeated his complaint; and then at an event that occurred at the Hayden Planetarium, Tyson spoke about it to Cameron a third time. Finally, a post-production technician working on the re-release called Tyson and asked him to provide a picture of what the sky really would have looked like, and Tyson's star image was used to fix that shot. Before the shot was fixed, the stars were arranged to look like the Heart of the Ocean necklace.


30. James Cameron infamously threatened to fire anyone who would dare get out of the tank for a bathroom break while shooting the lifeboat scenes, leading to more than a few actors (including Kate Winslet) relieving themselves in the water.


31. On the set, Leonardo DiCaprio's pet lizard was run over by a truck, but with some TLC, DiCaprio nursed him to health.



32. Titanic marks the first time that two actors, Kate WInslet and Gloria Stuart, were nominated for an Academy Award for playing the same person in the same film. They both played Rose but neither won.


33. James Cameron met his fifth wife, Suzy Amis, on the set of this film. Of all his marriages, this one has lasted the longest.

34. The Wilhelm scream is heard in the movie after the Titanic hits the iceberg, water splashes inside the ship, hitting the crew members.


35. Kate Winslet suffered bruises so impressive that the makeup artists took photos to use for reference later. She also chipped a bone in her elbow.


36. The crew felt that James Cameron had an evil alter ego, and nicknamed him "Mij" (Jim spelt backwards).


37. On the final night of shooting in Nova Scotia a dangerous prank was played that saw PCP (the dissociative hallucinogen 'angel dust') mixed into the clam chowder served to the cast and crew. 80 people were became ill, and more than 50 were hospitalized suffering hallucinations. When James Cameron realized what was happening, he forced himself to vomit before the drug took full effect. Bill Paxton felt listless for two weeks after the incident (although PCP's primary effects only last a few hours, the drug itself can take eight or more days to completely metabolize out of the body). The culprit(s) were never caught.

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