Titanic is still one of the biggest movies ever made. It was a huge hit at the box office for months, and it went on to win an insane number of Oscars. Titanic wasn't always a sure bet, though. In fact, James Cameron's masterpiece looked like it was going to be a disaster for much of production. The fact that the movie worked shocked most people.
Because the production was riddled with problems, there are plenty of interesting things about the movie that most people don't know. These could be details from production or horror stories about what went on set. Even on wildly successful movies, things don't always go as planned. That was certainly the case on Titanic...
James Cameron is passionate about two things: deep-sea diving and filmmaking. There's a reason Titanic was one of the director's passion projects, and that reason has a lot to do with his own fascination with the ocean. In fact, James visited the actual sunken wreck of the Titanic as part of his preparation for the film.
James is so passionate about deep-sea diving that he actually spent more time on the ship than any of the actual passengers. It's no surprise that every detail of the movie comes to life so perfectly. After all, the director took in everything he could about the ship.
Learning lines is hard. Actors have to make every moment they're on screen feel real, even though they're being told what to say and how to behave. It's understandable that they don't land every line on every take. Sometimes, the lines they mess up make it into the movie anyway, not because of lazy editing, but because they're better than what was scripted.
That was the case when Jack was drawing Rose, and he told her to sit "over on the bed...the couch." The line wasn't meant to mention the bed at all, but James Cameron liked the slip so much that he left it in the final cut of the movie.
From the beginning, James Cameron intended for both Jack and Rose to be fictional characters. It wasn't until after he had finished shooting that he realized that there was an actual J. Dawson on board the Titanic, purely by coincidence. The real J. Dawson was a man named Joseph Dawson who went down with the ship and is now buried in Nova Scotia.
Much like Jack, Joseph didn't get to live past that fateful night. It's interesting that there was an actual J. Dawson and even stranger that James didn't know that before he made the film. It's a crazy coincidence, but it speaks to how in tune he was with the story.
Given Kate Winslet's struggles filming Titanic, it's interesting to consider how eager she was to get the part. Apparently, she sent James Cameron notes daily to remind him how much she wanted the role. She also traveled to Los Angeles and called him to tell him that the part of Rose belonged to her. There was simply no one else who could do it, according to Kate.
Of course, Kate gives a career-defining performance in the film. Among plenty of great work, this performance really stands the test of time. It's fierce and powerful, but it's also deeply human in just the right way.
Very few movies have a story this strange associated with them. As filming was wrapping up for the present day section of Titanic, the movie's crew got together to have a sort of last meal before they went to Mexico to build the actual boat. During that last meal, which was chowder, someone laced the chowder with PCP, a hallucinogenic drug.
Most of the film's crew, including James Cameron, fell into a disassociative state, and no one knows who actually laced the food to this day. It sounds like the world's most brutal prank, and it speaks to what a disaster this movie could have been.
There are plenty of experts on the Titanic out there, but James Cameron is certainly one of them. He was so precise about the film that he planned out the sinking sequence so that it played out in real time. The sinking of the Titanic takes exactly the same amount of time on screen as it did in real life. That's the kind of attention to detail James brought to the project.
It also speaks to how dire things really were on the ship. It didn't take long for the Titanic to sink completely, and we get to live through every harrowing moment of the ship sinking right along with characters we've already come to care for deeply.
One of the most famous lines in movie history, and the most famous line from Titanic, wasn't even in James Cameron's script. "I'm the king of the world!" Jack screams shortly after boarding the ship. That line was an ad-lib from Leonardo DiCaprio, one that so perfectly suited the grandeur of the moment that James decided to keep it in.
It speaks to the brilliant casting of the movie that Leo knew what his character would do in that moment, even though it wasn't in the script. It's a great, over-the-top moment, and it works perfectly in the film that contains it.
We know already that James Cameron was incredibly meticulous in making Titanic, but his work with the extras might take the cake. Apparently, James Cameron developed a backstory and motivations for all 150 extras that were on set for the movie's filming. That meant that every person on that ship, from the rich to the poor, had some sort of reason to be there.
Of course, we know that some of the people in the background were actual passengers on the ship. Whether they were real or made up, though, James was sure to make sure he background actors had motivations just like his central cast.
Kate Winslet had a very rough time filming Titanic, and she probably wouldn't do it again if she were given the choice. As the boat is falling apart, Rose is being knocked every which way, and all of that knocking around took a toll on Kate's body.
In fact, there came a point during the shoot when she was so battered that the makeup team had to use her actual bruises as a model to maintain continuity during the movie's filming. The damage Kate endured on the film seems like it was genuinely terrible, and it's likely that it shaped the rest of her career.
Leonardo DiCaprio's performance as Jack is iconic, and it's part of what made him one of the biggest movie stars in the world. Apparently, Leo wasn't exactly the first choice for the role, at least from the studio's perspective. They wanted another young star on the rise to take the part, in the form of Matthew McConaughey.
The world would be very different if that version of Titanic had been made. For one thing, it would likely be worse. Don't get me wrong, Matt is great, but he's not exactly well-suited to play someone with the boyish charm and energy of Jack.
When James Cameron first conceived of Titanic, he didn't see it as the kind of movie that required songs. Actually, he was dead set against including them. It was composer James Horner who made the song happen. He worked in secret with Céline Dion and lyricist Will Jennings to produce a demo for James to listen to.
After hearing the song, the director changed his tune, which was the right call. The song became a massive hit, and it helped cement Titanic as a major moment for pop culture in every form. Even the music industry couldn't escape its massive success.
In the scene were Jack holds Rose on the bow of the ship and she asks whether she's flying, it's easy to imagine that James Cameron added a few things to make sure the scene really popped. One of those added elements might have been the sunset, which seemed far too perfect to be real. In reality, though, it was.
James knew that he needed the scene to have the perfect light, and so he waited for precisely the right moment to shoot it. That's one of the reasons the film holds up so well. Of course, it's also one of the reasons that Titanic went wildly over budget.
The set of Titanic was, understandably, pretty wet for a large portion of filming. Most of the cast, fairly understandably, decided that they would protect their bodies against the cold water they would likely be soaking in for hours. Kate Winslet, though, decided that she didn't need a wetsuit.
After filming in the cold water for hours, she caught pneumonia, and she almost had to quit the film after that incident. James Cameron convinced her to stay, but it was a close call. Feeling the way your character does can enhance a scene, but that doesn't do you much good if it also kills you.
In the film, Jack is quite an artist. One of the central scenes in Jack and Rose's love affair comes when Jack draws Rose nude. While Leo is not an expert with a pencil, it turns out that James Cameron is. In fact, all of Jack's sketches in the film came from the director himself.
It's telling that James decided to turn Jack into a great artist. It's likely that he wanted to see some part of himself in the character. After all, Jack is a pretty great guy. He's basically perfect, and there must be something in James Cameron that wants to identify with the version of Jack we see on screen.
Because Leo was a truly terrible drawer, he couldn't even mime the act of drawing Rose in a way that seemed at all convincing. As a result, not only are Jack's sketches really James Cameron's, it's also his hand we see in the shots of Jack drawing. There was only one issue with this: Leo is right-handed, and James is a lefty.
As a result, the film team had to mirror-image the shots in post-production so that it looked like James was drawing with his right hand. It's a little detail, but it matters enormously. Those little things are what people notice, and if you're not careful, it's all anyone will remember.
James Cameron was given an absurdly large budget to make this movie, and it wasn't enough to make the movie he wanted to make. Initially, the film had a budget of $135 million, which was one of the biggest ever at the time. Eventually, though, it ballooned up to $200 million, money that James worked hard to put on the screen.
It's no wonder most people thought this movie was going to be a disaster. Movie's that go that far over their budgets don't typically do well. Thankfully, the investment in the film paid off enormously for everyone involved. No one was poor after Titanic came out.
There are lots of brilliant, sentimental touches in Titanic that help the movie tug at the heartstrings as much as possible. One of those touches is an image of an old couple in bed as water fills their room, ending their lives. What many may not know is that those old people were based on actual people. They were Ida and Isidor Straus, the owners of Macy's Department store.
Although Ida was offered a seat on one of the lifeboats, she declined to take it, and chose to die with her husband. That decision makes their death even more moving, even though we don't really know who they are.
For the scenes after the Titanic sinks, the film crew used a 350,000 gallon tank to film all of the extras in the water, along with Jack and Rose. That's a lot of water, but it's especially impressive because they chose to do it practically. Instead of making the characters look like they were interacting with water, they actually interacted with it.
For the clothes and hair in the scene, the production used special materials that would make the extras look like they were freezing. The effect is achieved with aplomb. Everyone looks really really frozen, and Rose's survival seems like an even greater miracle.
This was the first film in the history of the Oscars where two actors were nominated for playing the same character. Gloria Stuart and Kate Winslet were both nominated for playing Rose, and both of those nominations feel totally deserved.
Although neither one of them went home with the trophy that night, it speaks to the power of both Rose and Titanic that two people got nominated for playing one character. James Cameron often gets attacked for his writing, but he knows exactly what audiences love to hear, and what they enjoy most in a character. Rose is feisty but totally lovable, as are the actresses who played her.
Although Caledon Hockley, Rose DeWitt Bukater and Ruth DeWitt Bukater are all fictional characters created for the film, the rooms they occupied were real rooms from the actual Titanic. Those rooms, B52, B54 and B56, were originally booked by J.P. Morgan, but he canceled them before the ship actually set sail.
There has been a great deal of speculation about who was in those rooms when the Titanic actually set sail. Many believe Bruce Ismay booked them, but that was never definitive. Whoever it was, they were much less lucky than they thought they'd be when they boarded the "unsinkable ship."