TITANIC'S DIRECTOR RESPONDS TO THE CHARGES ABOUT HIS FILM
BY JAMES CAMERON
The Titanic disaster spawned many myths and popular
misconceptions in its time, and the film Titanic has done no
less. This simple true-or-false guide should help clarify rumors
The movie cost $285 million.
FALSE. The total cost is $200 million.
It is the most expensive film ever made.
TRUE, OR POSSIBLY FALSE. But this is the fourth time in a row that I have made a film that (rightly or wrongly) has been called the most expensive film ever made. In any event, many of our favorite epics from the '30s, '40s and '50s would cost more than Titanic if made today.
The production went way over budget.
TRUE. I hired the best, most experienced people in the film business to work with me on Titanic. The simple truth is that no one in any department (myself included) really understood the scale of this project going in. We were overwhelmed by the complexity of building a studio from scratch, including the world's largest tank facility, and simultaneously constructing one of the largest and most mechanically complex sets in history (imagine a 75-story building on its side...now move it!). We were all seasoned big-budget veterans, yet none of us had ever experienced anything like Titanic--nor, I daresay, would we care to again.
The water was freezing.
TRUE. Or at least it seemed like it. We froze our butts off. I remember spending many days up to my neck in what felt like ice water. And if there had been any other way to do it, believe me, we would have.
We worked long hours.
TRUE. But no longer than the hours on any other big location film anywhere in the world. We did not, as reported, work 18-hour days. The majority of our shooting was exterior scenes filmed at night, so we clearly couldn't have.
The shooting went many months over schedule.
FALSE. The planned shooting schedule was 138 days. The film was completed in 160 days, a 16% increase.
Many stunt people were seriously injured.
FALSE. Titanic logged 6,029 stunt-man days, probably a movie-industry record (True Lies had 2,202). In all that time there were three injuries requiring hospital treatment: one broken ankle, one cracked rib, one cracked cheekbone--and in the latter two, the stunt players were back at work the next day.
Set conditions were unsafe.
FALSE. As a result of unfounded rumors of unsafe conditions, the Screen Actors Guild investigated the production thoroughly and observed our working methods. They concluded that "the producers have taken extraordinary measures to ensure the health and safety of the cast and crew," and that we had "set a new standard." In fact, during the entire production, there were no on-set injuries requiring hospital treatment among actors or extras.
I am a "screamer."
FALSE. A yeller, maybe. Working with hundreds of extras day after day for months makes yelling a way of life. Almost never was there anger in it. In the darkest depths of the shoot, when responsibility for the budget overruns was a crushing burden, I was prone to some frustrated outbursts. I think I'm a good director, but I never claimed to have the best personality for directing. It brings out the worst in me, and it's the aspect of the work I hate the most. It should be noted that I am never negative with the actors, absolutely and religiously. In many ways they have the most difficult job on the set, and I make it my mission to be supportive and collaborative.
The extras worked in hellish conditions.
FALSE. Our extras worked hard and put tremendous heart into their performances. They became a community, with a high sense of purpose and camaraderie. They were well fed, had more than ample sanitary facilities (in fact, we all used the same ones) and were provided with large Jacuzzis for warming up between scenes during water work. Reports of mistreatment are bogus.
Titanic is a disaster movie.
FALSE. It is a love story. But don't worry--the ship does sink.
Titanic is an attempt by a very large number of people to do something extraordinary. It was never a "no brainer" piece of pop entertainment. Unlike most of the other big productions of the year, it is neither a sequel nor the launching point of a series of sequels. It is not based on a comic book. It was not designed to spawn a vast array of toys, merchandising, video games and theme-park attractions. It is an earnest and heartfelt work. But the same voices that decry the formulaic commercialism of mainstream Hollywood product do not seem to applaud the studio heads who had the courage to back this unusual film.
Yes, Titanic is an easy target, by the nature of the subject itself, that great monument to the folly of arrogant confidence. But believe me, I have never felt arrogance or certainty on this project. Quite the opposite. It has been a nerve-racking, terrifying ride. The budget overages threatened to consume our very sanity; the scope of the thing was overwhelming. But something kept us going--the studio heads, myself, the crew. We knew we had a chance to do something special, and those chances don't come along often.
Digitally clipped by rev.cmdr.taro (KCS, FScD) on 1997 December 02nd.
The above originally appeared here as part of the Time-Warner mediaHydra.