It’s rare that a release of a movie could be considered “news” years after the fact, but Titanic might be one of the few exceptions. Personally, I was in middle school when the movie debuted, and girls were bragging about seeing the over-three-hour movie multiple times. Leonardo DiCaprio pictures were plastered inside approximately 80% of the school lockers. It was a big, big deal.
The film, which was written, directed, and co-produced by James Cameron, was a fictionalized account of the sinking of the RMS Titanic back in April of 1912. The boat collided with an iceberg during it’s voyage from Southampton, UK to New York City. During the incident, over 1,500 people lost their lives.
Cameron began filming his movie in 1995, using actual footage of the Titanic wreck, as well as a reconstruction of the ship. At the time, it was the most expensive movie ever made – its budget was a whopping 200 million dollars.
While you’re most likely familiar with the plot, here’s a summary just in case – DiCaprio plays Jack Dawson, a poor traveler who won tickets aboard the Titanic in a poker game. He meets Rose, played by Kate Winslet, on the ship while saving her life. The two fall in love, despite the fact that they’re from two different worlds – Rose is being forced to marry a rich 30-year-old named Cal Hockley, so that she can maintain a high-class status that she was at risk of losing after her fathers death, while Jack is just happy to be hanging with the upper class group for once. And, as one would expect, things kind of fall apart when the “unsinkable” ship doesn’t live up to its name.
While the movie studio was a little skeptical about creating a three hour long love story, Cameron insisted on having the emotion behind the actual event there as well – after all, it wasn’t entirely fiction. While Jack and Rose didn’t exist, other historical figures were present in the film, including: Margaret “Molly” Brown (played by Kathy Bates) who – with the support of other women – commandeered Lifeboat 6 from the crew of the Titanic to return and look for other survivors, Thomas Andrews (played by Victor Garber), who was the naval architect for the Titanic and didn’t survive his own disaster, and Wallace Hartley (played by Jonathan Evans-Jones) who was the ship’s bandmaster and violinist, leading his eight-member band during the sinking of the ship.
“It was an event that happened to real people who really died. Working around the wreck for so much time, you get such a strong sense of the profound sadness and injustice of it, and the message of it.” Cameron said. “You think, ‘There probably aren’t going to be many filmmakers who go to Titanic. There may never be another one…”
The filming schedule was supposed to be 138 days, but turned into 160. The cast and crew came down with colds and kidney infections during filming, especially during the scenes where they had to spend hours in cold water. When the cost of creating the film rose, people originally started to panic – but Cameron refused to back down, saying that if they threatened to cut the film down, they’d have to fire him. And in order to fire him, they’d have to kill him. (James Cameron is known as being a pretty intense person to work with, but he obviously knows what he’s doing.)
Once the film was released, it received high praise. Roger Ebert stated that “it is flawlessly crafted, intelligently constructed, strongly acted, and spellbinding.”
“Movies like this are not merely difficult to make at all, but almost impossible to make well,” he said, naming it his ninth favorite film of 1997.
The movie won four Golden Globes, eleven Academy Awards (which made it the second film to ever reach this record), and three Grammy Awards for “My Heart Will Go On,” performed by Celine Dion. The soundtrack was the best-selling soundtrack that was primarily orchestral of all time, and the best selling album of 1998. Outside of the United States, it won the award for Best Foreign Film of the Year at the Awards of the Japanese Academy.
Just last year, the film was re-released in 3D to celebrate its’ fifteen anniversary. The update was a remastered version that took 60 weeks and 18 million dollars to produce. Only one scene was changed, which was a shot of sky at night, after astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson contacted Cameron to tell him the original version had an unrealistic star pattern.
This movie is noteworthy solely because of the impact it had on the world when it was released. Back in 1997, I didn’t realize I was going to be an audience member for one of the most noteworthy movies of my time. And to think – if it weren’t for Cameron’s odd love of shipwrecks, this might have never happened.
Do you remember your first viewing of Titanic? How many times did you see it in theaters? If the movie was released when you were still young, did you realize the hype that this movie created prior to viewing it?
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